Shiels determined to keep pointing the way for Derry
Derry City begin a brand new season at Bohemians this evening, with manager Kenny Shiels hoping his team can defy the odds yet again.
Last year, the Candystripes eclipsed everyone's expectations by finishing in third place and qualifying for European football for the first time since 2013.
In his first campaign as a League of Ireland manager, Shiels took Derry from relegation contenders back to mixing with the elite in the division, and he also reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions.
He did so by sticking to the club's long-standing traditions of giving young, local players opportunities to impress, making his first year at the club an undoubted success.
But now Shiels and his players have to prove themselves all over again, beginning with tonight's game at Dalymount Park.
"Hunger is very important and you need to sustain that," explained Shiels.
"It's okay having that for one year, but it has to be sustained and concerted for the players to do well with their local club. That's what we're looking for all the time.
"The measurement of where we have gone I think is reflected by the bookmakers. You shouldn't always go with them because they can get it wrong, but I still have the paper at home from last year; we were 150/1 to win the title and now we're 14/1, so that's progress in itself.
"We were bang outsiders last year and even though we have lost experience this year, they have still brought us in. That probably reflects the process."
Shiels was never far from the headlines in his debut season at the Brandywell, but he remains steadfast in his own ability as a manager, insisting that he is not interested in a popularity contest.
"I do things for my club and others' views of me are not important," he stressed.
"What I do for my club is be honest with them and be honest in every area of my work. I have to have integrity. If I lose that I'll pack it in.
"At no stage will I ever deviate from that, ever.
"I will never sign a player because someone else likes him, that's not the way I work. My decision has to be for the benefit of the club. You never get them all right. You just have to try and use your experience."
After the success of last year, Shiels is well aware that clubs will be taking Derry much more seriously this campaign, meaning the season ahead could be a difficult one.
The former Kilmarnock manager has brought Mark Timlin (right) back to the club, as well as bringing in loanees Nicky Low and Northern Ireland U21 ace Mikhail Kennedy from Dundee and Charlton Athletic respectively.
Big names like Niclas Vemmelund (left) and Conor McCormack have left the club, but Shiels is ready for the challenge ahead.
"I think clubs will be wary," Shiels said. "I think everyone is wary of each other. People will be more aware of us but we will be more aware of them. I don't see that as a negative. We focus more on what we do and in every game we prepare to have an impact to see if it helps us get points. How other teams think of us shouldn't affect how we approach the games. We have to try and have an edge on them."
Shiels' tenure at Derry began with a defeat at Finn Harps on the opening day of last season.
That loss was not a sign of things to come however as Derry flourished, with the Candystripes not losing two games in succession throughout the 42-game campaign.
Derry will begin life at their temporary new home Maginn Park next week against Limerick, and Shiels is hoping that his team go into that game with some points on the board.
"We beat Bohs four times last season and it's very difficult to repeat that," Shiels warned. "It doesn't happen in football that much where a team wins so many games on the bounce against another club. This season is a new season and it's different.
"There are challenges out in front of us, and that's what we want. You can't ask for any more than that."
TONIGHT'S FIXTURES (7.45pm): Bohemians v Derry City, Dundalk v Shamrock Rovers (8pm), Finn Harps v Cork City (8pm), Galway United v Drogheda United, St Patrick's Athletic v Bray Wanderers, Limerick v Sligo Rovers.
SSE Airtricity Premier Division
Dalymount Park, Tonight, 7.45pm
Manager: Kenny Shiels
Captain: Ryan McBride
Key man: Rory Patterson was the Candystripes' top scorer last season with 20 goals
Biggest loss: Niclas Vemmelund was a star at The Brandywell last term but has departed to join Dundalk
Ins Mark Timlin (St. Patrick's Athletic), Eric Grimes (Cork City), Nicky Low (Dundee, loan), Mikhail Kennedy (Charlton Athletic, loan), Alon Netzer (ASA Targu Mures)
Outs Niclas Vemmelund (Dundalk), Conor McCormack (Cork City), Keith Ward (Bohemians), Gareth McGlynn (Retired), Patrick McClean (Waterford), Shaun Patton (Sligo Rovers)