Oakham United manager Seb Hayes after his side defeated Cottesmore AFC in the final of the Rutland Cup
Manager Seb Hayes hailed a 'massive day for the whole club' after a rejuvenated Oakham United lifted the Rutland Cup on Saturday.
Hayes' new-look squad of experienced campaigners from his previous reign at Lands' End Meadow and emerging talent from United's ranks combined to defeat Cottesmore 2-1 in the final.
Hayes said: "We are rebuilding in pre-season while most other clubs are coming into it having already played in cup competitions last month.
"They are fitter and sharper than us so it is about putting into our players what we want them to do and they did it brilliantly on Saturday.
"We knew that Cottesmore would play out from the back so we had to make sure we kept our shape and mirrored the ball to force them to go long and, as soon as that happened, it played into our hands.
"They created chances but didn't hit the target and if they're doing that then it doesn't matter how much possession a team has.
"I was really impressed with our response after they scored because we went straight back at them.
"Our lack of fitness saw us sit too deep which is something we have got to work on but, the only way you can do that, is by getting fitter and sharper which what pre-season is all about."
Oakham's new Peterborough League Premier Division campaign is due to start next month and Hayes is looking towards a long-term goal for the Rutland club.
He added: "Saturday might have been a cup match, but it's about the bigger picture which is getting a squad together and mixing the young lads in with the older heads and then bridging that gap between experience and fitness.
"Our older lads have got the experience but maybe not the fitness while the younger lads have got the legs but not the experience.
"Mikey Baird has stepped up from the Under 17s and has been involved in every pre-season game. He's been outstanding and is getting better every week like all of the young lads.
"We are in a position now where we have got seven or eight young lads in the squad and they are all coming in and starting games and producing.
"I'm not expecting a big thing this season. It will be the season after.
"If people are expecting massive things from us this season then they're mad. It's about the bigger picture of two, three and four years down the line.
"We don't want to be in the bottom two next season which we shouldn't be with the squad which we have got and we want to be pushing for the top eight.
"It is now about putting pride back in the shirt and trying to raise the image of the club.
"It has been cannon fodder for the last couple of years where the club has been bottom of the league and should really have been relegated.
"We have got to stop that which is why a lot of the older lads have come back because they have something which they believe in and they want the young lads in the team.
"They have come back because they want to be part of it and they know what the long-term goal is which is that we need our best young players in Oakham playing for this club."
Oakham had earlier defeated Uppingham Town in the semi-final a fortnight ago before Saturday's success over Cottesmore.
Hayes continued: "It was a massive day for the club and not just the first team because we had reserve lads and Under 17s playing which is what I've preached since I came back.
"It is all about rebuilding a club and not just the first team and I wanted the lads to celebrate after winning because we want more days like that.
"It might be pre-season but we have beaten two local rivals who are very good step seven sides.
"We have more than matched them at times and at other times we have had to hang on, but they are two established teams and we are a whole new squad."