Shiels sure new signings can help City challenge big-spending rival clubs
Kenny Shiels enters his third season as Derry City boss tonight expecting it to be his toughest campaign yet.
The former Kilmarnock manager has exceeded all expectations as City chief over the past two years, taking the Candystripes to a third place finish in his debut season before earning European qualification with fourth place last year, achieved amid the tragedy of the shock death of club captain Ryan McBride.
The close season has brought further challenges for Shiels, who has lost yet more influential players.
Midfielder Barry McNamee, who scored 10 goals last season, has joined champions Cork City alongside defender Aaron Barry, while defender Dean Jarvis has joined Dundalk.
In response, Shiels has added 10 new players to the City squad.
Of those new signings, there is experience in former Shamrock Rovers midfielder Chris Turner and former Sligo Rovers defender Gavin Peers, while Hale brothers Ronan and Rory come highly-rated.
The first challenge for Shiels and his new-look squad comes tonight at the home of First Division champions Waterford United, a team the City boss is expecting to challenge for honours in 2018.
"I don't think you can pick the winner of the league at this stage because Cork, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Waterford might stretch away from the rest," he said.
"They've made the investments and, while we have made good investments as well, they have cherry-picked from the league.
"Waterford have cherry-picked - they've picked the best players from seven or eight clubs so that's formidable. They'll be expecting to beat us, but we're going there to give some pride back to the city. We've brought the team back to Derry."
Waterford captain Patrick McClean will be eager to make an impression against his former club.
Shiels said: "I spoke with Patrick and told him I couldn't promise him a starting position. He and I mutually agreed that it's better for him to get games, and I'm delighted that he has."
Meanwhile, City's revamped Brandywell is expected to be up and running from next month.