Iain McInnes is eyeing a Pompey play-off challenge as the 2014-15 League Two campaign prepares to get under way.
The Blues’ season kicks-off tomorrow at Exeter, with Andy Awford’s overhauled squad widely expected to improve on last season’s final placing of 13th.
No grand expectations of automatic promotion have emanated from Fratton Park this summer as the Pompey manager seeks to maintain a sense of realism.
Yet following a strong finish last term and a clear strengthening of the playing resources, the anticipation for considerable progress is prevalent among many supporters.
Certainly the Blues’ chairman is hopeful of a push for the play-offs during the campaign’s full duration.
McInnes said: ‘Without in any way, shape or form to be demeaning of the squad this time last year, it has to be said Andy has had a significantly easier job in the summer than Guy Whittingham because he has built upon a nucleus of players here.
‘It is now a much more stable club. We have all learnt the hard way from our experiences in the first year – and I think it is also a more talented squad.
‘Last year nobody knew what to expect, despite all of us thinking we know a bit about football.
‘We were exampled and singled out by the bookies as the pre-season favourites – which wasn’t something I took terribly seriously – but, naturally, other people would have believed it, not least of all the opposition.
‘But the reality of life this time around is that, naturally, our expectations should be high comparing to them to last season.
‘Realistically, we have to be looking to be competing and obviously, by deduction, that is reaching the play-off zone.
‘I think that would be quite a significant improvement.
‘People may think of that as being perhaps in some way lacking in ambition but I actually don’t believe ambition can be measured in any other way. We are ambitious.
‘We want to be in the top seven, competing, playing the right kind of football that fans can come and enjoy, making sure they have something they are proud of and not being defensive of.
‘We have got to be up there now and repaying the faith and commitment of the 11,000 season-ticket holders – and the other 7,000 that will doubtless join them.’
Euphoria accompanied the opening match against Oxford at Fratton Park last season – only for the hosts to suffer a 4-1 loss.
It was a painful experience for Pompey in front of 18,181 supporters – the biggest League Two crowd in the 2013-14 campaign.
Regardless, the 63-year-old McInnes continues to relish those Blues curtain-raisers he has experienced so many times.
He added: ‘I don’t think the excitement and anticipation of a new season ever changes.
‘No matter if you suffered relegation the season before, you are just excited about the first match.
‘It’s the real business and real points at stake.
‘If I have a cautionary bone in my body, the way we finished, I wouldn’t rule out a 4-4 draw against Exeter, which wouldn’t be a bad result.
‘It’s an oft-quoted phrase but this is a marathon, not a sprint.
‘I think, providing we don’t lose tomorrow, most people would come away and say “okay, it’s a good result” – considering it is fundamentally a much-changed squad, given it is the first game of the season, given people raise their game against us and given Exeter are a good footballing team.’