The Town may have won promotion back to the Football League but nothing changes for the boss
One year ago John Still was preparing for the nine-month season in the Football Conference.
He would, of course, go on and assemble a squad which would go on and beat all before them as the Town clinched the championship in style.
But despite the fact the Hatters are now back in the Football League as a result of last year’s success, very little will change in the manager’s meticulous and tried and tested pre-season preparation ahead of an assault on League 2.
“It’ll be business as usual,” Still told Hatters Player. “It’ll be the same format, the same pattern. We’ll get the players used to how we want them to play. Nothing changes. I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed this summer but it’s all about getting back to work.”
That’s not to say that Still hasn’t been working since the curtain came down on a glorious title-winning campaign at Hyde in late April.
The boss’ mobile phone has been red hot all summer, and he has already secured two new signings in defender Curtley Williams and striker Ross Lafayette.
His search continues to find players up for the League 2 challenge – a slightly different task than asking players to play Conference football, as were the conversations 12 months ago.
“Of course there’s a little change,” explained Still. “Last year we knew we needed players that could compete in the Conference.
“I personally believe the gap between the two divisions isn’t that big, but that’s not to say we’ll be going for players that have exclusively experience of just League 2, or just of the Conference. You don’t always know how players are going fair, but my experience tells me if you have a gut feeling about a player then act on it.
“In both Curtley and Ross’ cases the key factor was their hunger and their ambition to do well for themselves. Sometimes I can just smell the hunger and desire on a player. Sometimes it’s enough to tip me over the edge one way or the other. With these two it was a positive tip.”
The Town squad return to pre-season training next week with the bleep test and laps of the Ely Way training field to content with before beginning their schedule of friendlies at Borehamwood on Wednesday 16th July.
Matches at Kenilworth Road against Royal Antwerp, of Belgium, Peterborough and Colchester follow before the League 2 campaign begins with the 550-mile round-trip to Carlisle United on 9th August – nothing like getting the longest trip out of the way first.
“It’s a great start,” said Still. “Last year Carlisle were in League 1 and we were in the Conference. That shows how far we’ve come and it’ll be a great test.”
Indeed, an opening game against a side plying their trade well above the Town in recent seasons represents a tough challenge. But, to Still, it’s just another hurdle to overcome.
“I said when I first came here it was about small steps, and these are just a few small steps for this football club,” said the manager.
“We’ve got to make sure we take these steps steady and cleanly, and at one at a time. We’ve moved up after a fantastic season last year: now is not the time to take two steps back.”