The last time Aaron Smyth was on the pitch at Windsor Park he couldn’t hold back the tears as Crusaders edged out Cliftonville in the Irish Cup final.
Smyth carelessly conceded a free-kick which led to Mark Dickson’s goal and the right-back was so distraught at the finish he needed a shoulder to cry on.
It was a painful end to a season in which Smyth admits his performances were simply not up to standard.
Yesterday he was back at Windsor Park with a smile on his face to support an Umbro photoshoot ahead of the new Carling Premiership kicking off tomorrow.
That cup final defeat in May will eat away at Cliftonville players until they get their hands on a shiny piece of silverware and Smyth knows he needs to come to the Reds’ party.
“After the year I won Player of the Year I don’t feel I have improved much,” he admitted.
“I don’t feel I did myself justice last season and my performances will have to improve.
“I want to do better and perhaps pick up another Young Player of the Year award!
“The Irish Cup final defeat made me more determined to get back to that stage and win things.
“I was devastated after that final and hopefully we can go one better this year and win it. It’s an achievement getting to the final but then you have to go that extra mile and lift the trophy which we didn’t manage to do.
“We want to do well in the league as well, especially after last season when we fell away and had to fight back. We picked our performances up but it still wasn’t good enough.
“Now with the injured players back like Liam Fleming, Fra Murphy and Conor Downey, hopefully we can go from strength to strength.
“They will be like new players and hopefully we will be harder to beat.”
Cliftonville, who kick off the new season at Ballymena United tomorrow, will again be relying on the 2008-2009 Player of the Year Chris Scannell to hurt rivals.
“As everyone knows, Chris is one of the best strikers in the league so with him leading the line we will fear no-one,” added Smyth.
“Hopefully he can maintain the form that won him the Player of the Year award.
“Everyone at Cliftonville is hoping he can score the same or more goals than last year.”
It’s been quiet on the transfer front at Solitude but Smyth is unconcerned.
“A few players were transfer listed but I think that was probably more to do with funds than anything else,” he said.
“Eddie (Patterson) has always wanted to strengthen his squad and at the minute he is probably still trying to work wonders and bring players in. I’m just looking forward to starting the season with the players we have and seeing where it takes us.”