We must make Swift start to avoid survival battle: McAree
Rodney McAree says Dungannon Swifts must hit the ground running in this season's Danske Bank Premiership.
The 2016-17 campaign kicks off at Glentoran today - a game which McAree feels will be a good marker of his side's progress.
The Swifts head into the new term high on confidence, with their sights set on breaking into the top six after last year's seventh-place finish.
More immediately, McAree wants to avoid a repeat of last season's dismal start.
The Swifts took just eight points from their opening 13 games last time, leaving them fighting for survival for a big part of the campaign.
And while their form improved markedly after Christmas, McAree is determined the same won't happen this time round.
"We have set ourselves the challenge of doing better in the initial period of the season," he said. "Last time we only got eight points from the first 13 games, and it is vitally important for us to try and pass that as quickly as possible.
"We want to give ourselves a platform that we can build on going forward."
Dungannon's opening seven games see them face three of last season's top four. McAree acknowledged: "Our first four away games are Glentoran, Cliftonville, Linfield and Crusaders, so it couldn't get much tougher for us.
"It's going to be very difficult but we do set ourselves the challenge of doing better in that initial period of the campaign."
Dungannon have had a good pre-season, and retained key talent such as last season's top scorer Andrew Mitchell - a player who has many admirers around the league.
But the acid test comes this afternoon as the serious business of competitive football gets under way again.
McAree believes the Glens should be a real test of his side's credentials.
"Saturday should give us all an idea of where we are at," he said. "You can do all you want in pre-season but it's very hard to create that competitive edge in a pre-season match.
"So it will be nice to get back into the competitive side of things and see where we are and gauge ourselves against opposition in the same league as ourselves."
Tomorrow's game could see a debut for the Glens' big summer signing - former Rangers striker Nacho Novo, who penned a one-year deal last month.
McAree believes it's an indication that they remain a big force in the local game.
"Glentoran are still one of the big sides in Irish League football," he added.
"What they have done in attracting Nacho Novo is show that they are still a big club with a big following."