Luke Joyce admitted things are changing at Accrington Stanley – and he expects to see the rewards next season.
Joyce and Dean Winnard are the only two Stanley players under contract beyond this summer and the 24-year-old says he has big expectations for the 2012/13 campaign under new boss Paul Cook.
"It’s a really exciting time," said the midfielder, who is captain of the side in Winnard’s absence. "On and off the field a lot of things are being done differently and hopefully that will come to fruition next season.
"You can tell that Paul Cook has been at some top football clubs as he is making everything more professional off-the-field, from monitoring what we eat to making sure the injured players are looked after.
"Les Parry from Tranmere has come in as the new physio and there is now a treatment room at the ground and the gaffer isn’t one to rush players back.
"He also has us being based at the club, rather than the rugby club, eating at the Crown pub together and working on fitness levels and such like.
"The gaffer has high ambitions and I think there will be big things happening next season and I am keen to be a part of it."
When Joyce was at Carlisle, a number of managers came and went and he admitted there is always trepidation when a new boss comes in, as it was with Cook replacing John Coleman in January.
"Football is all about opinions and one manager may think you are the best player in a world and another may not fancy you at all – that’s the way football works," continued Joyce.
"All I can do is get my head down and work hard to keep my place – that’s what I intend to do."
Joyce admits he has been honoured to wear the captain’s armband this season with regular skipper Andy Procter leaving for Preston, Winnard injured and vice-captain Ian Craney still on his way back from ankle trouble.
"It’s been a privilege whatever happens in the future," said Joyce. "To captain a club in the league is a proud moment and I do love the role."
It has been a transitional season for the Reds with the loss of Coleman to Rochdale and Cook taking over.
Long-servant Procter also left and there has been a horrendous injury list which has seen key players such as Sean Hessey, Winnard, Bryan Hughes, Craney and Danny Coid miss vital parts of the season.
This has meant the Reds, who did occupy a play-off spot in January, have slipped out of the top-seven picture, currently in 13th spot – 12 points off the play-offs.
"It has been transitional," said Joyce. "It has also been disappointing though.¿Not so long ago, we were in the play-offs but, while we have had injuries, we have also got to look at ourselves.
"When the new gaffer took over, in his early games, we didn’t perform as well as we could in some of the matches but I think we have now turned it around.
"We went on a bit of a run where we went five games unbeaten and I did think it was down to me being captain as I had just taken over!" joked Joyce.
"But I think most people will agree recently that we may not have got the results but we have been unlucky in some games.
"The gaffer’s very level-headed. He doesn’t shout and scream and throw teacups when we lose while he doesn’t get over-excited when we win and it works.
"On the pitch, his philosophy is to attack and we do have a lot of attacking options with Bobby Grant and Jamie Devitt on the wings. They add a good balance to the team and it means we are strong on either flank and they will score goals.
"They are both on loan and nothing has been said about them staying but I am sure the gaffer will be planning already for next season.
"There are a lot of encouraging signs at the club. The gaffer and Leam (Richardson) are full of plans for the summer and next season and it is exciting.
"At the start of every season, it’s every team’s ambition to win the league and I am sure we will be no different in August."
But first the Reds have six games left of this campaign, starting with a long trip to promotion-chasing Torquay today (Friday) and then face struggling Hereford at home on Monday.
Joyce, who scored in the 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, has bad memories of the Gulls, having been sent off in Stanley’s 3-1 victory in December at the Crown Ground.
"I either have a good game – where I have scored against them – or a bad game, where I am sent off so I will settle for a boring 1-0 win for us. And I wouldn’t mind getting two goals in two games so I hope I’m the goalscorer!
"But Torquay are going well, they got into the play-offs last season and lost in the final so they have the experience of being up there.
"But we go there with no fear and hopefully we can get a win for the fans making the long trip and making a weekend of it."
Along with the long list of casualties, loan defender Rob Kiernan is ruled out with an ankle injury while Toto Nsiala sits out the last of his three-match ban against the Gulls.