Central Coast captain Nick Montgomery has tempered any ambitions of playing finals football in the upcoming A-League season, saying earning back respect is priority.
With new coach Paul Okon five weeks into the job, the Mariners stalwart isn't afraid to admit last year's wooden spooners will again be up against it this summer.
"We've got to be realistic. He's not had loads of time to stamp his style," Montgomery told AAP at the A-League season launch in Sydney on Tuesday.
"In that 4-5 weeks, as a team, we've really got behind the management style and the way they want to play. I think the boys have responded really well."
Montgomery said his team was free of any pressure to succeed, especially with an opening month that has them on the road to Perth, and difficult back-to-back trips to Sydney.
Envious of the league's high-profile clubs opening the chequebook over the winter, he bemoaned his own club's reluctance to find attract big-name players.
But he can see the rebuild coming
"I don't think there's any expectation on us," he said.
"If you look at the funds the other teams have got compared to us, it's no secret that the owner's been cutting costs for the last few years to keep the club sustainable.
"But the club's building a good facility that will hopefully take the club forward for the next ten years. This season's about winning back a bit of that respect that we lost last year."
Gone from last year are first-team regulars Joshua Rose, Mitch Austin and former Liverpool star Luis Garcia.
In their place sit former Sydney FC pair Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares, ex-Melbourne midfielder Connor Pain and former Wellington goal-poacher Blake Powell.
But with the youngest squad in the league last year, Montgomery said that under the guidance of former Olyroos coach Paul Okon, this season is all about development.
"He's got a great track record with young Australian players," he said.
"At times we had a back four that had the average age of 20-years-old. So that just shows you, right throughout the squad we had young players with not much experience in football."