Auchinleck Talbot will resume pre-season training today – and play their first match of the season next weekend.

Manager Tommy Sloan admitted it’s far from ideal, but insisted his players needed a decent break after their incredible efforts last season.

Talbot claimed a double of Scottish Junior Cup and Super Premier League in the season just finished and also lost out in the final of the Ayrshire Cup.

Sloan – arguably the most successful Junior manager of modern times – said: “The close season break seems to be getting shorter and shorter.

“Mind you, it’s not something I’m complaining about too much, because if you’re season is extended it usually means you are winning games and reaching the latter stages of the big tournaments.

“But the players still need a good break to re-charge the batteries and to ensure they are ready to try and do it all over again.

“We are back in today and then we have Craigmark Burntonians next Saturday. That means we obviously won’t have a normal pre-season, so we’ve altered the training schedule and it won’t be as much of a hard slog.

“But we have some new players in and they will need a bit of time to get to know the rest of the guys and to bed in.”

One of those new players is Robert Love, the former Albion Rovers striker, who has moved just a mile or so up the road from arch-rivals Cumnock.

However, ‘Tucker’ Sloan insisted Love wasn’t a direct replacement for David Gormley, who has signed for Clyde.

He said: “I’ve signed Robert because he is a player I have always liked. He has a big heart and gives 100 per cent every week. He is a real team player and I think he will fit perfectly in with our style of play.

“To suggest, though, that he is a replacement for Gormley is well wide of the mark. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t another David Gormley in the junior game. He is a fantastic player and will be sorely missed at Talbot.

“I don’t know who he will be playing alongside at Clyde, but if he has the right players round about him then he will do very well indeed, I have no doubts about that.”

It’s difficult to imagine an Auchinleck Talbot without Tommy Sloan, but Tucker revealed how he knocked back the club the first time they invited him on board as manager.

He said: “After I finished playing, I was working as a youth coach at one of my old clubs, Ayr United, under Campbell Money and I was approached by Talbot – but I declined the offer.

“They came back to me later on and asked again, and this time I decided just to go for it. It was a good decision and I’ve enjoyed my 12 years at the club immensely.

“In saying that, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses and winning leagues and cups. At the start, it was difficult for a period – not all plain sailing – but like anything in life, if you put in the work, you get the rewards and we have done really well in recent years.

“Football management can be really enjoyable, especially when you’re winning, but you only get out of it what you put in.”

And in the last 10 years or so, that has meant a whole host of trophies finding their way to Beechwood Park, including five Scottish Junior Cups and four Super Premier League titles. Not bad for a village with a population of around 3,500.

But to continue that type of success, Tucker is constantly evolving the squad, and bringing in fresh faces to keep his players on their toes.

This close season has seen the departure of long-time favourite Colin Spence, to Troon, Gormley head off to Broadwood and Ally Love make the switch to Glenafton Athletic.

To counter that, Tucker has brought in Love, and versatile playmaker Stevie Wilson – brother of current Talbot star Graham, from Troon.

He said: “I suppose the people of Auchinleck have come to expect success, and that can be hard on the players at times as they’re almost expected to deliver.

“I’ve been manager of the club for over a decade now but I still have the hunger for more success. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job properly. You want to be the best, and it’s exactly the same as the players.

“I was like that as a player and carried that hunger and desire throughout my career at clubs such as Queen of the South, Kilmarnock, Stranraer, Ayr United and Kilwinning Rangers.

“I went to Kilwinning when I was 33, but I still had a great desire to succeed, and managed to win the Scottish Junior Cup there.

“That Buffs team, and the current Talbot side, both tasted a lot of success, but we were two totally different sides. Kilwinning had a lot of experienced players while I’ve always tried to put the accent on youth. I like to give youngsters a chance.

“But we’re all looking forward to the new season and once we get some training under our belts, and a few pre-season friendlies, we will hopefully be ready to hit the ground running.”