Goalkeeper, Gerard Doherty admitted he didn’t go near the Brandywell much until most of the refurbishment was complete and on his first visit last week, he conceded the buzz of a new season really hit home.
While it’s still a few weeks away from completion, Doherty and the rest of his team-mates visited the ground for the annual team picture and he was pleased with what he saw.
I think going into the season thinking about aiming for Europe and that’s no different this season.Gerard Doherty
“The buzz is back and getting into the Brandywell you could see the buzz amongst all the boys getting in and seeing the stadium and it looks the part,” he stated.
The skipper, who’s in his testimonial year with his home town club, feels if the Candy Stripes can secure a European spot at the end of the season then it will be a good campaign, especially as the likes of Cork City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers have all strengthened.
“In my mind I always go back to budget,” he insisted.
“I always think if you finish around where your budget allows then you are doing alright.
“I think the last couple of years we have been challenging a wee bit but we have probably finished where our budget lets us finish
“I think going into the season thinking about aiming for Europe and that’s no different this season,” he insisted.
“Being realistic, Cork (City) have signed big players, Dundalk have strengthened again and are massively back as well, (Shamrock) Rovers are going to be a lot better than what they were last year, so we know it’s going to be tough.”
The 36-year-old admits he, like supporters, can’t wait for another crack at European football this season and he hopes they don’t draw a club as high a calibre as last year’s Danish side Midtjylland
“Last year we actually couldn’t have got a worse draw and to be honest we took a couple of hidings and that probably knocks people’s confidence for a wee while, but that’s last year and we have Europe to look forward to again this year,” he added.
“So we’ll hopefully get a team that is beatable this year and that’s the way we’ll be looking at it as a club and a squad, maybe we can win a few games and then push on.
“You saw how it helped Cork and Dundalk and it had a snowball effect for them.
“Those European runs make them a fortune and they had happy times for their fans as well and hopefully we can do that.”
Despite losing the likes of Aaron Barry, Barry McNamee, Lukas Schubert and Harry Monaghan, Doherty believes boss Kenny Shiels has assembled a squad, which will mean there’s competition for places this campaign.
“I think that was Kenny’s thought at the end of last year and probably at the back of his mind he knew that he was going to lose a couple of players and I think he was looking to bring in players for competition for places, as it’s going to be a long season,” he confirmed.
“As we know already there’s going to be injuries and sickness and you’ll need the quality of players to step in, so I think Kenny has done well in that department.
“He has been here there and everywhere looking for players and he has assembled a good squad of players but it’s going to take a wee while for everybody to settle in and I think once that happens we’ll be grand.”
City travel to newly promoted Waterford this Friday and although pre-season hasn’t been the best in terms of match practice, the Creggan man is looking forward to the league opener.
“Look everyone is looking forward to it and hopefully we can get off to a good start,” he added.
“It doesn’t matter who you play or where you are playing, the same thing is on the line for everybody those big three points.
“It’s going to be a tough ask because Waterford still have that momentum from last season by winning the First Division title and they’ll have a winning mentality going into the game, so that will be another aspect that we’ll be coming up against.
“However we’ll be going down there full of confidence and it’s a case now of bring it on. Pre-season has been a wee bit stop start for a few players myself included. I had the ‘flu and missed a full week’s pre-season.
“But I’m a wee bit too long in the tooth to take pre-season that serious. It is what it is, you get your fitness and your match practice and away you go, the season has started.”