“What we’ve done is fine, but our story hasn’t finished yet...”
Raring to get going ahead of Cambridge United’s second season in Sky Bet League One, Mark Bonner cut an excited figure talking to the press on Thursday morning.
“If any manager tells you they love pre-season, they’re lying – because in the end you get to the point where you’re like ‘come on, let’s get started!”
When analysing the fitness of his squad, there was nothing but praise the Head Coach could laud towards his tight-knit group – one predominantly similar to which concluded the previous campaign in late April.
“The boys have been great. I think the one thing we have to recognise is we’ve gone for fairly high continuity of players. Although there’s been a slight change in dynamic, they’ve brought into the work brilliantly.
“They arrive at the end of pre-season fit, fresh and, touch wood, available going into the weekend. We’ve made improvements too, that will continue throughout the weeks.”
Arriving at the Abbey with an imperious record, MK Dons pose a stern challenge. If anything, that’s something to relish for this U’s side who have proved they can cause problems for the better sides in the division.
“What we know is that there aren’t many games that aren’t a challenge, but we’ve shown we can compete and are capable of good results; we take confidence from that. There’s some big teams in that first batch of games, but you get that throughout the course of a season.
“They (MK) have had a mass turnaround, but you know what you’re going to get against their side in terms of style. Whilst there’s a change in shape, the principles remain – they like to dominate the football and will remain patient. They’ve signed some excellent footballers and it will be a tricky afternoon for us. However, it’s one to look forward to. The supporters will be there in their numbers, generating noise which always helps – hopefully we can get off to a good start.”
So what have the U’s learnt that will ensure they’re a different, more menacing outfit this time around?
“Every individual has got a ceiling higher than where they’ve been, so physically there’s more to come from us. Technically and tactically, they’re only going to get better. Adding to that, we’ll be wiser and more experienced thanks to last year. Now we need to put all of that into the game when it matters.”
The perfect label to encapsulate United’s endeavours last season was ‘confident underdogs’, yet whilst he admits he may have run out of slogans, the boss couldn’t resist mentioning a new tag – one that certainly sums up the mentality of the club.
“In some respects, being the underdogs doesn’t change for us. Ideally, I’d like the confident side to remain too. For us, I think ‘better never stops’ is the idea right now. We have to strive to keep getting better, what’s the next chapter for us? Is there more in us? Can we create more positive memories for our supporters?”
In regards to targets, Bonner immediately dismissed the ideology of the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’, switching to the contrasting luxury of simple, yet steady, improvement.
“We’ll crack on and do our thing. People can say what they want, the only thing that truly matters is what we do. Let’s prove ourselves right, not others wrong.”
The U’s may have settled into life in the third tier after an applaudable 14th position. But one thing’s for sure, they won’t be resting on their laurels any time soon.