Lincoln City boss Gary Simpson says getting his current side into the top 10 this season would match the feat of steering the Imps to the League Two play-offs in 2003.
Back then Simpson was in the dugout with manager Keith Alexander when they beat the bookies’ odds and turned a side coming out of administration into promotion contenders.
And now as Simpson prepares for the forthcoming Conference Premier campaign with a reduced squad, he believes expectations of a push towards the top end of the table need to be put into context.
However, he feels he sees in his team now the same spirit that was in the squad which reached a play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.
“I understand expectations are growing,” said Simpson. “I think in pre-season we’ve done very well and held our own against sides from the Football League.
“It is brilliant there is that good feeling about, but I have to say, getting into the top 10 and pushing for play-offs this time round would be comparable to what I achieved with Keith Alexander after coming out of administration.
“Back then we were up against clubs with bigger budgets and we signed players out of non-league and managed to turn it around.
“It was a ‘them against us’ situation, and we are in that place right now, with a lot of other clubs in our current division building up their squads.
“I know Lincoln City are a big name in the Conference, but that does not mean we have a divine right to be in the top 10.
“What I will say is that I can look at my current team now and see that same spirit we had back then.
“In 2003, we had players in Simon Yeo and Richard Butcher who were here because they wanted to be at Lincoln City, they were certainly not here for the money.
“They were characters. The players we have now are those sort of characters and they are again here at Lincoln because they want to be part of the club.”
Last week, City chairman Bob Dorrian revealed the directors have had to find an extra £150,000 to balance the books at Sincil Bank.
Dorrian said the club needed to be attracting bigger gates to keep the finances on an even keel and believes staying in the top 10 will draw in the crowds.
Simpson believes in a perfect world his starting line-up could match the big spenders in the division, but believes he has to be realistic about the task that lies ahead.
“The division is interesting this season,” said Simpson. “Last season you looked at it and the two standout sides were Luton and Cambridge.”
“They got promoted and this time round you have a good 10 teams or more in the mix for those top five promotion places.
“I have belief that on their day my team can match them, but it is not as simple as that and we will face injuries and suspensions.
“That’s why working with a limited squad we look for players to cover a variety of positions, but we will be in a difficult situation if we get a large number of injuries – that’s the challenge we face with a limited squad.
“That said, we are seeing the benefit of making the commitment to get players on two-year deals last summer. They have improved and grown together and are better for having that time together.
“This summer we have added some good players to that core. Karl Ledsham and Sahr Kabba have shown in glimpses what they are capable of when fully fit. Tony Diagne has experience of the division above and Arnaud Mendy is really starting to come on now he’s got a full pre-season under him.
“Meanwhile, Jordan Burrow has been fantastic and again he is another lad who stepped down to join Lincoln so he could be involved, get games, and develop. I would like to have brought in more of that calibre, but finances have not allowed it.
“My only other frustration is that the finances have been such that I’ve not been able to start talking to players about extending deals. I hope that will change, but at the moment, that’s how it is.
“It is a challenge, but I think the fans are starting to see that spirit we had last time I was here and I hope that we can all pitch in and push forward.”