Peterborough Phantoms chief Slava Koulikov admits the English Premier League already looks a lot tougher next season
Koulikov guided Phantoms to honours glory as they were crowned play-off champions in April at the end of his first full season at the helm.
He has since penned a three-year deal to continue his fine work at the city club and is relishing the challenge of competing against rivals undergoing big changes and flexing financial muscle during the close season.
The big-spending owners of runaway league champions Telford have now invested in two other clubs, Manchester and Bracknell, while three teams - Swindon, Sheffield and Milton Keynes - have installed new coaches.
Koulikov, who guided Phantoms to fourth in the final league standings ahead of their play-off success, said: “The league is probably going to be closer and more competitive than ever.
“You only have to look at the five teams who finished below us last season and they have either had investment or brought in a new coach.
“And Guildford and Basingstoke, who finished above us, will be desperate to get a lot closer to Telford than they managed last season.
“A tough challenge lies ahead for us but our aim will be the same as last season - to compete against every team on every night.
“Our roster is coming together nicely and I’m particularly pleased we have managed to retain guys who were offered better deals elsewhere.”
Phantoms continue to announce signings at regular intervals.
They still have two imports to reveal and are also expected to confirm the return of several more members of the roster which powered to play-off glory.
British forward Lloyd Gibson is their latest capture after arriving from Sheffield Steeldogs.
And the 25 year-old, who can also fill in as a defenceman if necessary, insists he has moved south to fulfill his ambition of winning honours.
Gibson said: “I want to win trophies and that’s why I’m coming to Peterborough.
“After five minutes on the phone to Slava I knew I wanted to join. He has some exciting plans and he wants to improve on the success of last season.”
Gibson has been a model of consistency by racking up between 25 and 30 points in all five of his previous EPL seasons.
Koulikov is yet to make a decision on his own future as a player.