James Coppinger says Doncaster Rovers have a point to prove on their return to League One.
The 36-year-old is one of only a small number of survivors from the club’s embarrassing relegation in 2016.
Rovers immediately righted that wrong by returning to the third tier at the first time of asking.
But captain Coppinger, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s League One opener at home to Gillingham, says that last year’s relegation remains a motivating factor this time around.
“We’ve got a tight knit group and we’re looking to build on the success of last season,” said Coppinger.
“The club has brought players in and they’ve done really well in pre-season. Hopefully we can push on.
“The division will be tough with the teams that have come down. But at the same time it’s been done before where teams have gone up and then gone up again.
“We’re going into the season full of confidence, with a lot to prove going back to the season before last.
“It should never have worked out that way.
“For us to get relegated was unbelievable.
“But we showed great character to bounce back and we are back where we believe we should be, if not higher. So we need to prove that.
“We put it right last season.
“The expectation level was different, we were expected to get promoted and do what we did. We did it comfortably in the end with five games to go.
“But again we need to prove this season that we can compete and be consistent at this level, because that’s one of things we weren’t [in 2015/16].
“We’ve got to consistently perform well and drive each other forward.
“It’s a long season but it’s another season that potentially could be a successful one.
“The expectation was so high last season and we needed to produce and we did.
“It’ll be exactly the same this season. There’ll be a clear goal before the start of the season of where we want to be, between the team, the squad and the manager, and we’ve got to try and accomplish that.”
Unlike last season, Rovers are not among the bookmakers’ favourites for promotion.
“It could work in our favour,” said Coppinger.
“There’s usually a surprise package and hopefully that’ll be us.
“The budget, the amount of players that we’ve brought in, isn’t what people would say is the expectation level of a club that wants to get promoted automatically but we’ve definitely got enough quality in the squad to push as hard as we can.”