It’s been a busy, but ultimately productive summer for Chris Todd, as he looks to build on the progress he made as Eastleigh manager last season.
Todd took over from former manager Richard Hill in late September 2015 as the Spitfires recovered from a lacklustre start to end the campaign in seventh position.
That performance could have been even better had it not been for an impressive FA Cup run that saw the club take SkyBet Championship club Bolton Wanderers to a Third Round replay, before bravely bowing out of the competition after a 3-2 defeat at the Macron Stadium.
As the dust settled on the 2015/16 season, Todd swiftly turned his attention to planning for first full season in charge of the club.
A number of eye-catching signings have been completed, with the Spitfires squad bolstered by the additions of the likes of Ryan Bird, Ryan Cresswell and Mickael Mandron.
And Todd believes that the new additions have taken the club to a new level.
He said “We have brought in some talented players into the football club and I definitely think it has taken us up a level.
“I think they have all come for the right reasons and I am really looking forward to a long, tough season ahead but hopefully bringing in these players means we can make it a successful one”
The addition of Northampton Town defender Ryan Cresswell was something of a coup for Todd.
Fresh from leading the Cobblers to the SkyBet League Two title, Cresswell agreed a move to the Spitfires and his new manager believes his experience of a recent success could prove invaluable for the club this season.
“It’s massive for us getting Ryan” said Todd.
“He is a vastly experienced player and has been very successful himself.
“That was a key point in signing him, he knows how to win a league and it is a massive coup for us.
“He has bedded in well and is a proper leader”
The capture of Sunderland U21 striker Mickael Mandron was another impressive addition for the Spitfires.
With many Football League clubs interested in the French striker, who made three first team appearances for the Black Cats, was something of a surprise to many, including the man that took him to Eastleigh.
Todd commented “I was as suprised as anybody else that I managed to sign Mickael to be honest.
“I have been a big fan of his for a long time now and I remember seeing him play for Sunderland U21s last season at Southampton.
“He was streets above everybody else on the pitch that day and I tried to get him on loan but Sunderland wouldn’t let him come to a non-league club.
“To find out he was available in the summer was amazing and we just had to give it a go. I did that and he wanted to come to the club, he was full of praise for us and like my ideas.
“We are delighted to have somebody of his calibre at Eastleigh”
Twelve players have come through the door at the Silverlands Stadium as Todd improved his squad ahead of a gruelling campaign.
With that comes added pressure and with the Spitfires tipped to be among the frontrunners for promotion, he faces a challenge to keep everybody happy.
Not least his players.
However the former Exeter City and Newport County defender has his mind focused on promotion.
“The target has to be promotion, of course it is.
“We have high expectations on us to acheive a promotion but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I want to be successful as a manager and I want Eastleigh to be successful as a football club.
“We want to be in the Football League but this is a tough old league. There are a lot of clubs wanting to do the same thing, saying the same things as I am but we will give it our best shot, it won’t be for the lack of trying”
That task, as Todd admits, won’t be an easy one.
This looks to be one of the most competitive National League seasons in a long time.
A number of clubs have strengthened their squads and with the addition of the two clubs relegated from the Football League (York City and Dagenham and Redbridge), there isn’t a shortage of promotion candidates in non-league’s top tier this season.
But despite not having experience in the Football League, Todd believes his squad are capable of reaching League Two for the first time in their history.
“Tranmere Rovers, York City, Wrexham, Lincoln, Forest Green Rovers, Dagenham and Redbridge, the list goes on.
“Most clubs in the division have Football League experience now, they have been there and done it and now they want to get back there.
“We aren’t one of those clubs with league experience but we want to get there for the first time in the club’s history but we will give it everything and we have a squad that is capable of doing so”
The club found themselves in a similar situation twelve months ago, as they were tipped by many to be amongst the promotion candidates.
For a number of reasons, not least their FA Cup run, those predications proved to be incorrect but lessons have been learnt by Todd and his coaching staff.
The changes to their squad have put Eastleigh in a better position to cope with an increased schedule, and to cope with the demands of National League action.
“Everyone knows that the FA Cup was such an amazing thing for the club and it took over as a priority at some points in the season.
“We will live and learn from that and I wouldn’t take anything away from the run because it was a great acheivement to get as far as we did.
“It did hinder us because we couldn’t get back into the league games and couldn’t win a game. We have learned from it, I have learned from it and the squad is stronger now. If it happens again we will be ready for it”
If they are to be successful then Todd believes that the team spirit already on display in the Spitfires changing room will be key.
And the thirty four year old challenged his players to carry on the good feeling into the league, something that began with a victory against Guiseley on Saturday.
He said “The atmosphere is amazing, it really is and I am not just saying that because it is my team.
“There is a real camorarderie and a togetherness.
“It is a great feeling and as soon as we came back for pre-season the feel-good factor was there.
“We have to carry that forward into the league games and try and get as many points as we can throughout the season”