It would not be unreasonable to expect a club that finished one point and one position outside the play-offs last season to be targeting a place in the promotion shake-up ahead of the new campaign. But when Dean Barker suggests a mid-table finish would represent a good 2019/20 season for Kings Langley that isn’t due to a lack of ambition, rather a realistic view of the club’s status at step three of the football pyramid.

It’s been almost a month since the former Cockfosters, Northwood and Welwyn Garden City boss took charge at the Sadiku Stadium and he tasted victory as Kings boss for the first time last night, as the club’s pre-season campaign opened with a 2-0 success at Burnham.

Barker was appointed after Steve Conroy departed at the start of May following a disagreement over the playing budget, but a new manager is not the only key change at a club which defied expectations by just missing out on the Southern League Premier Division South play-offs last season.

Danny Perman has taken over as chairman after Jeremy Wilkins stepped down, the pitch is undergoing significant renovation work and Kings will be playing in a new division next season after being shuffled sideways into Premier Division Central.

Those changes on Barker’s mind when he spoke to the Watford Observer, but he is also aware of the opportunity he has to continue to build at a club fresh from achieving it’s highest league finish to date.

He said: “I think it’s their fourth, fifth season at this level so talking to people at the club they’re still establishing themselves as a step three football club. I know things have changed from last year, budget wise, a new chairman, but they had a really good season.

“Every club I’ve walked into we’ve had no players, whereas we’ve signed 10, 11 from last year so that’s good and they’re obviously decent players because they did well last year. We’ll bring in boys we know and we like and add to the group and hopefully we can have a successful season.

“If you speak to people probably they did punch a little bit above their weight last year, so if we could finish mid-table I’d say that would be a really good season. But like any player and manager, you want to win as many games as you can.

“It’s a different league this year, there’s some really big clubs in it – Bromsgrove, Tamworth, Rushden & Diamonds, Nuneaton – they’re places for myself, the players and the supporters to look forward to going to.”

Barker, who teaches PE at a primary school in Harpenden, was on holiday when the approach from Kings Langley came and he praised his former club Welwyn Garden City for the “very professional” manner they dealt with the situation.

Explaining the opportunity to manage at step three and the club being “not too far from where I live” were big draws, Barker continued: “When you go to a club you get a feel about them and Kings Langley knew a lot about me whereas you go to some interviews and meet different people and they know a little bit about you, but Kings Langley seemed to know everything.

"Ultimately we feel we’ve done quite well at every club we’ve been at and we’d like to do quite well here.”

The Burnham game was the first of eight pre-season friendlies Kings will play, but with more than a month to go until the start of the season he has an optimum sized squad in mind and does not intend to waste time making decisions over players.

“I think a maximum of 22 we’ll sign,” he said. “The 22 are trying to get into the 16 and the 16 are trying to get into the 11, so all those 20, 22 boys will get an opportunity in pre-season and then come August 10 we’ll make sure we’re organised, we’ll make sure we’re hard to beat and hopefully we’ll put in some good performances.”

Barker added: “I don’t want to waste players’ times either. If they don’t think they’re going to part of our plans or we don’t want them, we’ll tell them early and we know what we’re working with then.

“At this time of year you’ve got boys on holiday and different people will come in at different times, but ultimately we want to get a settled squad two, three, four games before the first game.”

The club stated it “rigorously pursues a policy of self-sustainability with regards to its income and expenditure” when it confirmed Conroy’s departure, but the prospect of working with a small budget does not faze his successor. Indeed, it’s a situation he is used to.

Barker said: “The clubs I’ve been at we’ve always had small budgets or no budget at all. We probably have the smallest budget in the league, I think everyone knows that, it’s not a secret, so we’ve got to give young players an opportunity.

“We’ve got some boys that have stayed that have played 200, 300 games for the club so they’re great servants and they’ll be beneficial to us on and off the pitch. But when you haven’t got a lot of money you’ve got to give young players a chance and that’s what we’ll have to do.

“It’s a big family feel at this club and from where they’ve come from in a quite short space of time it’s exciting, they still have the buzz and I still have the buzz of going to the Nuneatons, the Bromsgroves, all those big clubs.

“Without being disrespectful, a lot of those clubs probably wouldn’t have heard of Kings Langley until last season, so it’s an exciting time to come into the club."