KRIS Lowe says he has no problems with heightened expectations at Cliftonville as another campaign dawns.
The Reds stunned many observers last season with the form that saw them push eventual Champions Linfield all the way in an absorbing title race that wasn’t settled until the final day.
A runners-up spot, automatic European qualification and silverware in the form of the BetMcLean League Cup represented a satisfactory year at Solitude, but Lowe is well aware that he and his team-mates cannot rest on their laurels.
“Everybody wants to improve and kick on and see how much further we can go,” he says.
“That’s been the attitude ever since I first came to the club, everybody’s always working to see what we can do to be better and I don’t see that changing just because we had a good season — there’s always room for improvement no matter what’s happened before. That goes for the players, the manager, the staff and everyone behind the scenes. Nobody’s going to sit back and say we’re happy with last year and that’s the end of it.”
It’s not just Cliftonville supporters’ hopes and dreams for the new season that Lowe and co will have to contend with.
The former Dungannon Swifts star (right) knows that opponents will be out to shoot the Reds down, but he believes the closing weeks of last term provided lessons they can learn from.
“You don’t really think about pressure when you’re out on the pitch during a game,” he says.
“Talk of pressure comes from the media and people on the outside. Every match we played in the last 10 weeks or so of last season was huge and what you might call high-pressure games but I thought we dealt with everything very well.
“Yes, we dropped some points here and there but so did everybody. If you look at the amount of points us and Linfield picked up in the last couple of months, they were pretty much identical, so we certainly didn’t crumble when we were supposed to be under pressure.
“We don’t see high expectations as a problem. We expect to be up there and will be putting those demands on ourselves, so our mentality will be exactly the same as it was last year — we’ll just concentrate on ourselves and let other people talk.”
Cliftonville wasted no time in bolstering their ranks over the summer with five new faces added prior to their Europa Conference League clashes with DAC, while defender Luke Turner was signed up following a stellar year on loan from Aberdeen.
Getting those players in so early on can, says Lowe, help the team hit the ground running once the domestic action kicks off next week.
“The club has shown ambition in what they’ve done in the transfer market,” adds the 26-year-old.
“The new boys came in and fitted in seamlessly. Right from the very first training sessions, you’d never have known they were new signings because you’d think they’d been here for a long time.
“When we work on 11 v 11 drills, you can see the quality that’s right throughout the squad and that gives everyone a lift. It also gives you a wee reminder that this will be a tough team to get into because competition is so high.”