DERRY CITY skipper, Ryan McBride believes the Brandywell club can overhaul Dundalk in the hunt for the 2017 Airtricity Premier Division title.
The robust centre-half signed a deal with his hometown club last weekend which could keep him at the club until at least the end of the 2018 season, depending on appearances next year.
And he’s talking tough in terms of his ambitions for the ‘Candy Stripes’ who finished third in the table this season, a very credible eight points behind second placed Cork City.
With Kenny Shiels working around the clock to build his 2017 squad, McBride is confident the Foylesiders can bridge the gap between themselves and the league’s top two should the Derry boss keep the nucleus of the 2016 side together.
The Brandywell lad turns 27 next month and while his current deal will see him stay at the club for another two years - providing he makes at least 20 appearances next year - he would be delighted to finish his career at his hometown club.
“I’d love to finish my career at Derry,” said McBride who joined the club in 2010 from junior side, Brandywell Harps. “It’s a massive club and it’s my hometown club. It’s a privilege to captain the team!
I’d love to finish my career at Derry. It’s a massive club and it’s my hometown club. It’s a privilege to captain the team!Ryan McBride
“If I stay injury free and have a good season next year, then I’d love to stay as long as I possibly can.”
McBride, who missed the best part of three months in the final part of the 2016 campaign through injury, was relieved to get his future sorted so soon after the season ended.
One of the key factors in agreeing a new deal was the stability brought to the club by new boss, Shiels who has also signed a two-year contract.
“The fact Kenny has signed for two more years is good for the team because we know he’s going to be there,” he explained.
“I had a tough season with injuries so it’s good to get signed up early. I don’t need to worry about anything apart from getting back fit for the start of January.
“Last year we were all left in limbo and it wasn’t nice to not know where you would be playing the coming season.
“Since Kenny came in he told us he wanted everything done early and hopefully add a few players as well.
“It’s good to get it all sorted and I can look forward to pre-season.”
The ambitious defender believes City can challenge for the title next year under the stewardship of the south Derry man and has set the bar high for 2017 and beyond.
“If you don’t believe in it then it won’t happen,” added the City captain. “After the Finn Harps game at the start of the season we all just looked at each other in the changing room asking what just happened.
“The fans were talking about a relegation dogfight but we all played for each other, dug deep and beat Cork in the second game at Brandywell.
“That was our mindset to go out with nothing to lose from then on and we ended up having a great season.
“If we hadn’t of lost silly points last season against Harps in the first game, and at home, away to Longford and Wexford we could have been a lot closer to the top two.
“I think as captain next year we could push the boys to challenge for the title. No one thought we could qualify for Europe so we have nothing to lose.
Cork and Dundalk are expected to finish top two and the pressure is on them but we have no pressure and we can go and enjoy our football and see how far we can go next year. We can only improve and I think we’ll go for it next season.”
The bustling defender is making solid progress with physio Michael Hegarty having started running again and will begin his personal off-season programme with Pearse Lafferty in the gym in the coming weeks.
“He would love to start back on January 6th with the majority of the same faces, and a few additional ones, to begin their preparations for a title assault.
“I would love to keep everyone together. Nico Vemmelund was fantastic for us at right back and centre half and Aaron Barry is a cracking player too. I’ve been playing alongside him coming three years now so we know each other’s game. It would be great to keep our defence together.”