Accrington Stanley skipper has high hopes for season
ACCRINGTON Stanley open their season with a League Cup tie at League One Carlisle this afternoon, and Reds skipper Luke Joyce is hopeful that a shock result can pave the way for a promotion challenge this term.
Joyce returns to the club he left to join Stanley three years ago and believes some encouraging pre-season performances have given the Reds reason for optimism ahead of Paul Cook’s first full season in charge.
Unusually the new campaign starts with the first round of the newly renamed Capital One Cup, with the Reds’ game at Carlisle brought forward from Tuesday to give them extra preparation time for their opening League Two fixture at Southend next Saturday.
Stanley defeated the Cumbrian side with two late goals in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last season.
Joyce is proud to be going back to his old club as Stanley captain today, having been confirmed as the club’s skipper for the current campaign after taking over from the injured Dean Winnard at the end of last term.
Joyce and Winnard are now the only two players remaining from the side that appeared in the play-offs against Stevenage 15 months ago.
The Reds were affected by losing many of their stars last summer but with a larger squad now at their disposal Joyce is targeting a return to the top seven this term, after finishing 14th during the 2011/12 campaign.
“I think everyone’s optimistic,” said the midfielder. “You don’t want to get carried away but we want to be challenging for play-offs and promotion. We’re looking no less than top seven really. Without putting too much pressure on ourselves that’s where we want to be.
“The season when we got into the play-offs was fantastic for everybody, I loved playing in the games on telly and that’s where you want to be.
“And I think there’s a real competition for places now in every position which maybe hasn’t been there for the past season or so.
“It is strange starting with the League Cup, it is different to play in the cup on a Saturday afternoon.
“There’s no pressure on us, we go there as a League Two team, Carlisle are the favourites. We beat them at home last season and the pitch is a big lovely pitch that is going to suit us.
“They were up near the play-offs last season so it’s going to be a really good test for us and it will show us where we’re up to.”
Joyce made only 12 league starts in three seasons with Carlisle but still looks back fondly on his time there and reflects with relief on the decision he made to join Stanley in 2009 rather than Darlington, then in League Two but now in the Northern League after cash problems.
“God yes, it’s unbelievable with hindsight,” he said. “Darlington were offering me more money but it’s a shame what’s happened there.
“I really enjoyed my time at Carlisle. it was my first taste of first team football. I know I didn’t play a great amount of games but coming out of Wigan’s youth team it gave me a great foundation about the Football League.
“It will be a nice game for me personally being a former Carlisle player and going back as captain.
“I love being captain.”