THE challenge for David Flitcroft and his Bury side this year is simple – to gain a foothold in League One.

Last season the club’s ambitious young manager had no choice but to set the bar high.

If he was ever going to make good on the chairman’s stated aim of earning Championship football within five years then Bury had to earn promotion from League Two in his first full campaign in charge.

That was achieved with a dramatic late twist, when Southend’s failure at Morecambe on the final day opened the door for the Shakers and Tom Soares at Tranmere.

In many ways, Bury’s 1-0 win at Prenton Park, which secured third place and automatic promotion, eased the pressure on Flitcroft and his team.

But pressure is never that far away in football and while, conceivably, he now has three seasons to plot a course into the second tier, the weight of expectations in the stands and the boardroom may prove otherwise.

So it is maybe understandable that a manager who was last year openly embracing his quest to finish in the top three of League Two is now talking about avoiding the bottom four of League One.

“(The measure of success) is staying in this league,” he said.

“It’s a massive place for us to get to, to be consistent in League One.

“If you are consistent in League On you can build out from that. If you are flaky in League One you have nowhere to go.

“So we have got to be consistent and build from a real solid platform.”

Flitcroft was quick to add attacking talent to his squad this summer, bringing in personnel who have a proven track record for either putting the ball in the net or creating goals.

Strikers Tom Pope and Leon Clarke have been given time to gel in pre-season, playing alongside each other at Maclesfield and Morecambe and at home to Blackburn and Preston.

The fact they scored a goal each against Championship opposition at Gigg Lane certainly bodes well, while Clarke also found the net at Moss Rose.

Behind the front two, Flitcroft is confident he can rekindle the undoubted talents of Jacob Mellis following a disappointing season at Blackpool.

The pair worked well together during the manager’s spell at Barnsley, and if he can find a way of incorporating both Danny Mayor and Mellis in the same team then the front two should have no shortage of chances.

The Bury boss has made no secret of his desire to bolster his defensive options further but the signing of experienced old head Peter Clarke to partner Nathan Cameron at centre-back looks a sound investment.

He will keep rampaging young full-backs Joe Riley and Chris Hussey on a tight rein and provide a calm head in front of teenaged goalkeeper Christian Walton, who has signed on a season loan from Brighton.

Danny Pugh also looks to be a sensible bit of business following steady displays in central midfield and left-back over the course of pre-season.

Bury have also managed, so far, to keep the core of the promotion squad together, with those leaving, such as Jim McNulty and Nicky Adams, doing so with Flitcroft’s blessing.

And, off the field, the club seems to be going from strength to strength after completing lucrative deals with American kit supplier New Balance and shirt sponsor Village Hotels.

A new stadium naming deal is understood to be in the offing, while the first team and academy continue to make themselves at home at Manchester City’s former training base at Carrington.

All the ingredients are there for another successful season, but the manager is quick to remind fans, and possibly his employers, that they still have to earn the right to become an established League One side.

“Certainly the chairman is trying to drive us forward by building all the infrastructure to support that,” he added.

“We have been building firm foundations since we have come in here and since the chairman has come in.

“But it is just a case of everyone not getting carried away, being a realist and understanding what is needed to be competitive in this league, which, as a whole, I don’t think has ever been as strong as what I see now.

“I think last season the stand-out teams were Preston and Bristol City.

“They blitzed the league but I think there is a much of a muchness this year. As a group of teams I think it is quite level and quite even.

“To keep going and beating those teams is going to be an achievement in itself, but that is what we are going to enjoy about the season.”