Ambitious Richie Smallwood is determined to avoid a repeat of last season as he looks to help Rotherham United cement a place in the top half of the Championship.
The Millers’ bid for a midtable place in 2015/2016 was over almost before it began as they failed to win any of their first seven league matches.
New boss Alan Stubbs believes that, with the right recruitment, Rotherham can swap a survival battle for a top-10 push next year.
And midfield man Smallwood, who has twice helped the club achieve second-tier safety since promotion from League One, shares his manager’s lofty aim.
“At the start of last season we wanted to push on from the year before,” he said. “It didn’t quite work out with the start that we had, so that was disappointing.
“You have to set targets. We will look to push on for midtable and even a little bit further if we can.”
Rotherham didn’t record their first three-point haul last term until September 19, when they saw off Cardiff City at AESSEAL New York Stadium with a last-minute winner.
Stubbs wants better after leaving Scottish FA Cup holders Hibernian earlier this month and targeting a play-off place during his time with the Millers.
The players report back for pre-season training on June 30, and Smallwood added: “If you are not looking to push on, there is no point coming in every day.”
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old has cleared up one of the little mysteries of last season, when Rotherham climbed out of the drop zone with an 11-match unbeaten run under Stubb’s predecessor, Neil Warnock.
Smallwood played in 43 league matches but scored only one goal - a spectacular long-range effort in the 4-0 triumph at MK Dons on April 9 when some supporters felt the ball flew in despite a less-than-perfect connection.
“I felt like I struck it,” he said. “It sat up nice. I felt like I had a bit of loop on it. Maybe it came off the top of the boot, but I struck it well.
“I don’t score many, especially like that, so I will be looking to add that to my game.”