Alfreton Town boss Nicky Law says creating a strong team spirit will be one of his top priorities as he prepares for life in the National League North.
The Reds were relegated from the Conference Premier on the last day of the 2014/15 season, goal difference proving the decisive factor as Welling United instead survived the drop.
And with Law having to rebuild his squad following several departures, re-establishing the level of spirit and desire he believes was missing last season will be a key factor.
He said: “I felt we didn’t have the togetherness in the dressing room last season that we’d had in previous years and that had been a key factor in us doing well.
“It was hard to take being relegated, especially as it was ultimately on goal difference, but I felt it was about more than just results as the team spirit just wasn’t the same.
“We don’t have the kind of budget to be going out there and getting all the best players and trying to get promoted that way, besides it’s always about more than just talent anyway, so I’m now looking to bring in players who will put a shift in, be mentally strong at a tough level of football and who will help generate the spirit we need as a team.”
Law says he is having to build his squad virtually from scratch with only four registered players currently on the club’s books, but that patience will be key as he waits for the right players to become available.
“We’ve got four or five signed up and are a good way down the road with four or five more in terms of agreeing deals for next season,” he said.
“It’s been a slow process so far this summer as so many players are holding out for good deals at clubs with bigger budgets than we can compete with, but demands will soon start dropping and we should be able to get a good squad of 18 or 19 together, hopefully as early into pre-season as we can so we can hit the ground running when the campaign starts.”
Despite Alfreton having come from the division above, they have dropped into a league where competing financially will again be a challenge, with Law believing that is likely to be a factor in who challenges for the honours come next April.
He added: “We’ve come from a division where there were a lot of full-time clubs paying out big wages and it was hard for us to compete with that as we understandably have a lower budget we must stick to.
“This season the mark is still high as we’ll be up against sides like FC United of Manchester and Stockport County who get big crowds, AFC Fylde who have big backing and a few other clubs who have more to offer players financially and whose infrastructure is also that bit stronger.
“Once again we can’t just go in head first and get who we want - patience is often key to getting the best value.
“But money doesn’t have to be the be all and end all, nor does being pretty. Desire and fight count for a lot, especially if you’re playing at a smaller ground on a difficult pitch on a cold Tuesday night, for example.
“We’ve done well before at this level and with the right blend of players and a good team spirit there’s no reason why we can’t get a competitive side together again.”
Law will welcome his squad back for pre-season training on June 30 before their first friendly at Buxton on July 3.