West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray has told his players that they must work to a new level if they are to succeed this season and make their stay in the Premier League a permanent one.
The Baggies won automatic promotion to the top flight last season but the manager says he is aware that in the past - prior to his time - Albion became known as a yo-yo club, bouncing between the leagues.
However, he is endeavouring to ensure that his lasting legacy will be to keep Albion in the top division and has hinted that his summer spending is certainly not done yet, with several possible targets on the horizon.
He said: “There is an excitement around the place but I think the players are aware that the bar has got to be raised in everything they do now.
“I think that is why they have got on with their training and accepted that everything has got to improve - whether that be their fitness or their tactical nous or extra work on their technique. I am sure they realise that individually we have all got to step up a level.
“If you are not ready for that challenge, then I think you shouldn’t be here but we are looking forward to it.”
Mowbray believes his players - who have just returned from a pre-season tour - are tired but ready for the rigours of the Premier League. He continued: “The players have been working very, very hard and are aware of the tasks ahead. Sometimes, footballers come back on day one for pre-season in excitable mood and then realise after a training session that it is a lot tougher than they thought it was going to be but, hopefully, they are excited about the challenge.
“The players are a little weary but we will get to the point in the next week or so that the fatigue gets out of their legs. Then we can start crystalising the team and finding the formation. The players are generally happy enough.”
West Bromwich Albion fans could yet see a few more faces join the squad before the Premier League kicks off on August 16 and Mowbray revealed he and his backroom team were still working hard behind the scenes to bring players into the club.
“We have a few more irons in the fire though obviously we are not expecting them all to come off,” he said. “I think one or two might and, in an ideal world, you have all your players in before the season starts but not many clubs get to that point unless you are a Championship-winning side just adding a few bits and pieces.
“But we feel we have got to upgrade the team if we can and so there will be a few more players coming in, I would hope. Let’s see if we can make that happen.”
Albion have so far splashed out several million pounds bringing in Scottish international Graham Dorrans, Porto star Marek Cech, Villa striker Luke Moore and England goalkeeper Scott Carson, who was on loan at neighbouring Aston Villa from Liverpool last season.
Mowbray said: “I think the mixture of signings so far has ben good. Dorrans is going to be an exciting player and his assets will suit the Premier League while I think Cech has Champions League experience and the other night against Cheltenham Town, you could see that he is a lovely smooth footballer and very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
“Scott has played for his country and played all the time last season in a Premier League side which finished sixth, so we are just trying to improve the squad as we go along.”
He continued: “Some targets you like and make an inquiry and then find out their salary is another stratosphere but, if that is the case, you don’t get down about it or uptight - you just keep going.
“We are trying to put an extra bit of quality in. It is like a jigsaw puzzle and some you get and some you don’t. There are some bits where you feel it is not quite right but somebody will get an opportunity to play and step up to the mark.”