Defender Dean Winnard isn’t worried that Stanley’s promotion chances are being written off this season – as he believes they can upset the odds again.
The Reds’ squad was depleted with seven players released and six first team regulars leaving in the close-season and boss John Coleman has probably had his biggest rebuilding job going into his 12th season in charge.
The manager signed Burnley defender Kevin Long on loan until January yesterday (Thursday) and there were also rumours of a move for Clarets striker Wes Fletcher ahead of their League Two opening day trip to Northampton tomorrow.
The manager has 16 players on the squad list, including Leam Richardson who is still negotiating a deal, which leaves him little room for manoeuvre unless he can snap up another loan and one permanent signing he is aiming for before tomorrow. He also has new boy Danny Coid battling a hamstring strain.
But Winnard, who has signed a two-year deal with the Reds this summer, says the current crop aren’t letting any of that bother them.
"The thing about John Coleman and Jimmy Bell is that they instil confidence into the team and everyone is upbeat," said the 21-year-old. "Those two get the best out of you and I am sure they will during the season.
"It might be a small squad but we don’t fear any team in this league and we don’t mind being written off by people. We proved them wrong last year when we made the play-offs and we can do it again this year.
"The gaffer always pulls something out of the hat and I have every confidence he will do it again."
While the likes of Phil Edwards, Terry Gornell, Jimmy Ryan, Joe Jacobson, Alex Cisak and Sean McConville all moved on, Winnard said there was never any doubt in his mind he would stay.
"I love it here," said the former Blackburn defender. "I love coming into work every day, I didn’t want to sign for any other club, it’s a great atmosphere and I like working for John and Jimmy.
"They do a great job and I do think some of the players who have left should have shown a bit more loyalty to the management. They picked them up when they weren’t playing or didn’t have a club and I think they should have repaid the management’s faith, but that’s football."
Winnard played all but one of the league games last season and got on the scoresheet in the final clash of the regular season at Burton.
He helped the solid Stanley defence keep 17 clean sheets to finish in fifth place and his aim is to improve on that.
"Strikers want goals but defenders want clean sheets and I want us to do better than we did last season – that’s my target.
"I would like to get a couple more goals but it’s not something that worries me.
"Mind you, I also don’t mind where the gaffer plays me so I would be quite happy to have a go up front!"
Winnard says there is definitely no play-off hangover after suffering a two-leg defeat to promoted Stevenage in May.
"It is totally out of my mind, it’s a new season and we have new games to look forward to," he said.
"Obviously it took a bit to get out of all our systems as we were so disappointed but I have certainly forgotten about it now."
Coleman was pleased to snap up centre half Long, who was on loan with the Reds last season and who has featured at right back in the Clarets’ pre-season.
"We know Kevin from last season so we know what he can do, he settled in well and we needed another defender," said Coleman.
"We still need to add to our attacking options but it just doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment."
Once the season kicks off tomorrow the games come thick and fast with League One Scunthorpe in the first game at the Crown Ground on Tuesday in the Carling Cup.
Stanley have had extensive work done on their pitch since last season and chief executive Rob Heys is impressed. "We got some stick over the pitch last season but it was always a two-year plan," he said.
"We have spent £30,000 on it in the summer and it looks the best it’s ever been. There was a torrential downpour in midweek and there wasn’t a puddle in sight which was encouraging."