The 2017/18 season provided plenty cause to be optimistic about what’s being built at Motherwell, with the team having reached both national cup finals and narrowly missed out on a top six finish.
With the core of the group retained for the new campaign, and further depth added to the squad in key positions, manager Stephen Robinson’s decision to take the team back to Carton House in Ireland for pre-season training was very much about trying to set the same standards again.
Defender Peter Hartley wasn’t a Motherwell player this time 12 months ago, but he quickly became aware of the level expected.
A pivotal figure in the backline before injury curtailed his season last year, the Englishman says the return across the Irish Sea is about more than simply trying to replicate what’s gone before. Instead, he says, it’s about raising standards further and finding another level.
“We’re not planning on standing still,” he said. “We are planning on moving forward and breaking into the top six.
If you stand still, you’ll get overtaken. We have to improve. The only way to do that is to grow, get fitter and instil the principles again.
“If we do that, the target is to win a cup final this time, or get into the top six.”
A foot injury picked up in January ruled the former Plymouth Argyle man out for several months at the start of 2018.
Having maintained his status as an important figure behind the scenes during his layoff, Hartley says he’s now completely ready to impose himself again on the field.
“I feel great,” he said. “I am pain free. I am making sure I am getting my match sharpness when I can and getting involved with practically everything.”