MENTAL attitude is top of the agenda for Dave Pace and Aeon Lattie as they set out to re-establish Droylsden as a force in non-league football.
Over the last three seasons the Bloods have tumbled down the tables from National League North to NPL first division north. Two heavy relegations were followed by a disappointing tenth place.
Assistant-boss Lattie believes the seeds of a revival were visible last year, especially in terms of home form. If he and Pace can get the same out of the players in away games, he feels Droylsden will be challenging for promotion.
“We were brilliant at home and away we were dreadful. Conceding sloppy goals probably became our trademark,” he explained.
“Too many times we gave away early goals and then we were left facing an uphill battle. Letting in one makes things difficult enough, but when you’re two down in the first half-hour you have to change your shape while your opponents can sit back, soak up the pressure and hit you on the break.
“We need to play a more patient type of football. We need to be tight like Northwich Vics. If we can hold on to the ball more in games then our opponents will become frustrated.
“If we can master the art of picking up points away from home I’m sure we’ll do well because our home form is decent. Making sure the mindset is right is just about the biggest thing facing Dave and myself.
“Results show we don’t often get beaten by the big teams. Last year we beat Bamber Bridge 7-1 but then lost to New Mills because we thought it would be easy. New Mills, who were managed by Roy Soule, really got into us.
“Dave and I have to make sure the players are properly prepared mentally. They’re always up for it when they play bigger teams. They have to show that same attitude against everyone.”
Never one to shy away from change, Pace has ripped up last season’s template and made a raft of summer signings. In many ways though, it’s a case of back to the future as he has brought in former players – men who understand the way he wants to do things.
Lattie pointed to midfielders Luke Sharry and Fernando Moke, and centre-half Ben Hampson who was at Winsford last year. Lattie says it will be a massive season for the former Bolton man “who ought to be flying at this level”.
There’s also ex-Oldham defender Joe Cooper, Ramsbottom full-back George Bowyer “good experience at this level” and another defender, Andy Langford, who returns to the Butchers Arms from Congleton.
“We’re raring to go,” said Lattie. “One or two players have family holidays which were booked before we approached them but we’re looking forward to going to Harrogate Railway on Saturday.
“How will the season pan out? Well if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen at Droylsden and that doesn’t necessarily mean something negative – just the unexpected – that’s one of the reasons I’m so hopeful.
“Who else could do what we’ve done? We’ve avoided going bump and hopefully we’ve turned a corner.
“I’ve got Dave to put pictures of our winning sides in the club and boardroom. There are lots of smiling, successful faces around. Fingers crossed it rubs off on the players.”