YoungHeart Manawatu are ready to bury the ghosts of last season's horror run when they start the national league against Otago United in Dunedin tomorrow.
The Manawatu franchise has endured a lean trot recently, with only one win and four draws the past two seasons but coach Stu Jacobs has a few new players and the club has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
"We've probably been written off already," Jacobs said. "I've been in this position before, had a season where we've had a wee look and rebuilt. People write you off but we're quietly confident we can achieve some good things this year."
There are a number of newcomers to Jacobs' squad which had "plenty of experience, a good blend of youth, good pace and defensively strong".
"I think personnel-wise, we've had a change," he said.
"I'll call it an overhaul. I think the whole franchise has had an overhaul."
Their training regime and facilities have improved greatly this year which have the young team looking good.
"I think we've put some goals in front of the young players as well. They certainly don't want to make up the numbers. The older guys understand that, they know they're the driving force. The young ones have got to work as hard and show on the park they've got enough to compete at this level."
They have put in a lot of physical pre-season training to get up to speed and of all teams they could be playing in the opening game, Jacobs was confident against Otago.
YoungHeart lost 4-3 to them in Palmerston North last year after blowing a 3-0 lead and drew 3-3 in Dunedin, so Jacobs said Forsyth Barr Stadium was a happy hunting ground.
"We're probably a bit better off getting Otago than Auckland City at this stage."
Jacobs believed they had better depth this year and they still have another player signing to announce on Monday.
Among the new players, Grant Robson, Kade Schrijvers, Sam Redwood, Liam Higgins and Billy Scott will make their Manawatu debuts.
Robson, originally from Auckland, was trialling for Otago this season but missed out through injury and came to Manawatu.
Higgins and Schrijvers are from the Lower Hutt club in Wellington, Scott has come from Nelson via Wellington's Western Suburbs and Redwood is from Auckland.
Englishman Andy Frampton is another newcomer, having played in the lower Scottish leagues.
Matt Kennedy and Michael Fraser have groin injuries but are replaced by Josh Chettleburgh and Scott.
Returning captain, veteran Adam Cowan adds steel to the midfield and should provide good ball for the speedy Dale Higham and dangerman Seule Soromon, a former Vanuatu international, up front.
Frampton has a leg injury while last year's captain Nathan Cooksley is serving a suspension from the end of last season.
YoungHeart Manawatu: Matt Borren, Josh Chettleburgh, Kade Schrijvers, Sam Redwood, Liam Higgins, Tom Mosquera, Grant Robson, Billy Scott, Adam Cowan (captain), Dale Higham, Seule Soromon. Reserves: Ben Wilkes, Jordan Martens, Wade Randle, Michael McKnight.
Otago United (from): Liam Little, Jake Morrison, Tristan Prattley (captain), Benjudah Fitzpatrick, Matt Joy, Regan Coldicott, Seamus Ryder, Victor da Costa, Ant Hancock, Aaron Burgess, Sam Mepham, Tom Connor, Aajay Cunningham, Geordie Mansford, Joel Stevens, Peter Evans, Andy Ridden, Scott Gannon, Morgan Day.
- © Fairfax NZ News