Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley hopes their settled squad can be a decisive factor come the start of the new League One campaign.
Clubs at part-time level have had to purge a large number of players from their squads because of the financial impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A significant number of players will be out of contract and with clubs also furloughing staff for a period of months, recruitment at some clubs has been slow to get going.
Cove had 15 players carried over from last season, with the bulk of their League Two title-winners remaining on board. Their loan players returned to their parent clubs, while veteran defender Alan Redford was the only man to depart the Balmoral Stadium permanently.
Hartley said: “We’ve seen over the summer there’s a lot of players without clubs. A lot of teams are having to rebuild again. One thing we feel we’ve got in our favour is that we’ve got a settled team, lads that know each other pretty well and know how we work now we’re a year into the job.
“They’re a year older, wiser, they’ve got more experience and hopefully they can take it to the next level. This is a tough league we’re going into and there are some strong teams. We’ll try to be as best prepared as we can, which is why we’re doing eight weeks to get back.”
Former Dundee and Falkirk boss Hartley has brought in forward Leighton McIntosh, with the ex-Peterhead and Dark Blues man giving an extra dimension to the Cove attack.
McIntosh enjoyed a fruitful period with Peterhead under Jim McInally, helping the club reach the League One play-offs in 2016, while earlier in his career he scored some key goals as a youngster with Dundee. Dens Park is where McIntosh and Hartley first crossed paths.
Hartley added: “We’re still a couple of players short. We’re running with 15 and if we could add three or four to that, we’ll have enough bodies.
“That may be a loan or two, which may take a little bit longer. Being able to use nine on the bench now, clubs may hold on to players a wee bit longer.
“But we’ve got plenty of time. One or two permanent then a couple of loans – we’re just trying to see what players can help us, to bring more quality to the group we’ve already got.”