By Tony Leighton
"It's the biggest challenge of my life," admitted Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson as he sets about the task of establishing the Glovers in the Sky Bet Championship.
But after leading the Huish Park club up to Championship level for the first time in their history, Johnson is taking on the challenge with the enthusiasm and astuteness that are the hallmarks of his managerial style.
And after seeing his team produce a surprise 3-1 win against promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest last Saturday, the three points lifting the relegation favourites off the bottom of the table, he is quietly confident of achieving his aim.
"It's been a very happy camp this week after the Forest result," Johnson told football-league.co.uk, "but in fairness the boys have never been down because despite where we are in the league we've had some decent performances.
"We've played most of the top teams and done well against the likes of QPR, Reading and Leicester and although we lost - narrowly - to each of them, we were always in every game right up to the final whistle.
"We probably didn't expect what we did against Forest, but we were waiting to come up with a result like that and we're capable of doing it again.
"Teams might have thought Yeovil were good for taking six points off this season, but if scouts are doing their jobs right they'll be saying, 'actually, Yeovil are not going to be the whipping boys,' when they report back to their clubs."
In spite of his delight at Saturday's first home win of the season and satisfaction at his team's performances to date, Johnson knows from experience that it is going to take more than the occasional shock win to retain their status.
Earlier in his career he not only managed Bristol City up to the Championship but also then took them to within 90 minutes of reaching the Premier League, the Robins losing out to Hull City in the 2008 Play-Off Final.
But Bristol City are a bigger club than what Johnson affectionately calls "little old Yeovil," whose climb from the non-league ranks up to League 1 he masterminded even earlier than his Ashton Gate days.
The 58-year-old manager, who has also had spells at Peterborough United and Northampton Town, said: "We've not got the finances to buy the top quality players that the big Championship clubs can afford.
"But what we have got costs nothing - and that's hard work. When we came up I wanted to give everybody who got us promoted the chance to prove they are Championship players, and the lads have worked their butts off.
"We knew it would take a little time to adapt and we now know the areas where we need to improve. So we'll do some fine-tuning, bring in players if we can to improve the squad and keep working just as hard.
"We're not going to challenge at the top of the table, we know that, but we see ourselves in a mini-league with eight or nine other clubs and there's no reason why we can't do well enough to stay in the division."
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