Football’s close season may still be in its opening week, but Melton Town are already several months into planning for the next campaign.
Co-managers Tom Manship and Jon Stevenson began preparations for the 2019/20 season before spring had sprung and with the club still in the thick of a league and cup double bid.
Ultimately they fell agonisingly short on both fronts in their first season at the helm, missing promotion by less than a handful of points and losing the county cup final on penalties.
But Manship hopes being one step ahead of the game will help the club achieve the marginal gains required to reach the next level.
“We were planning for next year from February and March, who we would like to acquire, what we would like to do with the pitch, and talking to big potential sponsors,” he said.
“I was told by some good people in management that you have to start planning in February.
“There are so many things you need to think about when you are a manager.
“Not just your performance, you are thinking about the performances of 18 other guys and the mental state of 18 other guys.”
The last 12 months have been all-consuming for the fledgling management team who spent all of the close season overhauling the squad, and transforming every aspect of the club.
For Manship, particularly, attention to the small detail, from training kit to hospitality, is as important as the matchday performance.
“It’s been a big learning curve and I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s such hard work,” he said.
“As a player, once the game is finished you go home and relax, but you just have to ask my partner and daughter, my mind’s always on football, so I’m looking forward to a break to recharge, ready for the first week of July.”
Manship is also confident the club’s professional outlook will persuade the nucleus of his squad to give step six at least another season.
“Me, Stevo and Nathan (Arnold) are really happy with the group, but we are looking at one or two additions and have already made contact with one of them,” he added.
“I’m confident they will stay because to get the environment we have created here they would have to leap four leagues higher.
“The training facilities, the kit, the pitch, everything we provide here is the same as when I was playing in the Conference – that is what we’re aspiring to.
“I’m hoping the players realise that and I’m hoping the group enjoyed the season. There is a good togetherness here.”
In most other leagues, a haul of 90 points and a 16-game winning run would have won Melton a title and promotion.
But the relentless march of Lutterworth and Anstey added to the sense of what-might-have-been initiated by the cup final near-miss.
Yet the club has achieved their season’s on-field target of FA Cup qualification, while regular attendances comfortably over the three-figure mark has ticked the box marked off-field ambition.
“My number one priority this season was to grow the club,” Manship explained.
“If we had got promoted and only 20 people were coming to watch, I wouldn’t have been motivated.
“I would rather be in the position we are now with the club being a lot bigger than when we walked through the door.”
He added: “The performances on the pitch have been 95 per cent brilliant.
“We have fallen short of what we might have achieved, but from what we set out to do at the start of the season, we have over-achieved.
“We have only been together as a group for nine months, so to go on a run like we did with a brand new team is fantastic.
“We got ourselves to a cup final and were still fighting for the league with two games to go in the last week of April and that’s a great credit to the lads.
“Now we just need to find that little bit extra where we fell short.”