Cork City manager Neale Fenn has challenged his players to prove lowered expectations wrong when the SSE Airtricity League season kicks off on Friday.
City begin with a home clash against Shelbourne, looking to bounce back after a poor eighth-placed finish last season, with the club not considered to be among the challengers for a European spot.
However, Fenn, a league winner with City in 2005, has impressed on the squad that they can’t use external views as an excuse.
“You can’t be a massive club without expectations,” he said. “We’ve explained to them that there’s expectation on us, regardless of what people are saying in the papers or what’s being said about the squad.
“The lads are ready for that, they’ve prepared for it. We just want to get the season started and show what we’re all about.”
Fenn has effected a big overhaul of the Rebel Army squad, with goalkeeper Liam Bossin, Charlie Fleming, Rob Slevin, Joseph Olowu, Joe Redmond, Cian Coleman, Conor Davis Dylan McGlade, Cory Galvin, Henry Ochieng, and Reyon Dillon among the newcomers.
One of the priorities in ensuring their integration is bed in to the club’s culture.
“It’s important that they buy into what we’re trying to do here,” Fenn said, “especially the lads from the UK, that they get it and they understand what it’s all about, playing for Cork.
“They’ve all done that and all gelled really well. The fact that they’re all round about the same age helps and even the experienced boys that are here already have helped them to do that and let them know what we expect and the kind of culture that we’re trying to create here.”
Creativity on the field is important too, with City managing only 29 goals in 36 league games. Fenn is happy with the attacking options available to him, though.
“I think every team in the league would always say that they could score more goals,” he said.
“Right now, I would take winning every game 1-0, 100% I would take that.
“I worry about every part of our game, keeping them out at one end and scoring them at the other, so everyone’s the same.
“Everyone’s worried about who’s going to score their goals, but also are they going to win games, are they going to keep clean sheets? That’s also a concern for us but we’ll be set up, we’ve got good attackers, we’ll be a threat to teams, I believe, with the quality we’ve got going forward. I also think we’ve signed good defenders, so we’ll see what happens in that regard.”
Centre-forward Davis, signed from Derry City, is the only absentee as he recovers from a groin injury.
“I have a selection headache,” Fenn said.
“A lot of lads have picked up niggles during pre-season but as the start of the season comes, everyone is raring to go.
“Conor Davis would be the only one unavailable to us, which is a shame, because it would be nice to see him playing, but we’re happy enough with the squad we’ve got.
“We started to see, in the last couple of pre-season games that we played, that what we’ve been working on is going okay.
“Obviously, improvements can be made but the general quality of the squad I’m happy with.”