The Derry City manager was speaking ahead of the new season
Derry City surprised many by finishing in third place in last season's Premier Division.
It was Kenny Shiels' first season in charge of the side, and the 60-year-old Magherafelt native did not hold back in his opinion of the league. Speaking at the launch of the SSE Airtricity League launch earlier this week, Shiels told Newstalk Sport that despite the high finish last season, he feels Derry City are in a rebuilding phase both on and off the pitch.
"We've lost players to Cork, Dundalk and Bohemians. They were all mid-20s, older players. We've replaced them with kids. We're trying to create a squad - most of them are under 23. It means they're liable for compensation. What we dont want is this to happen at the end of this season, where they're coming and taking our best players."
Despite losing the likes of Niclas Vemmelund and Conor McCormack in recent months, players like Rory Patterson have committed to the team. Shiels is happy with the mentality he has brought into the club, despite geographical challenges and the shadow of the Irish League.
Niclas Vemmelund has left Derry City to join David McMillan at Dundalk this season. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
"We believe in what we do, and you have to believe in your players. You're always trying to get better. We got massive disadvantages compared with other clubs. It's really difficult because there is a part-time league right beside us. Players in their mid-20s - we can't get them and cant sign them. They've got two wages, and we can only provide one... These are challenges we look at and to try and get better."
The Brandywell is currently in the middle of redevelopment, meaning the team will be playing their games in Buncrana for the 2017 season. Maginn Park is the home of the Inishowen Football League. Shiels is looking at the temporary move in a positive light.
"It might be [a disadvantage] but we dont look at that. We look at how we can make it a challenge. We don't try to create negativity. If you look at it from a negative perspective, it becomes negative. We look at is as a challenge and we are right up for that"
Derry's budget for the season is smaller than many of their rivals, and their manager feels he can bring the league title to Derry in the coming seasons, by growing and developing players.
"Clubs purchase the league. We want to grow a team that can win the league, eventually. During that growth, it's going to fluctuate. There will be highs and lows. Eventually, my challenge is to get there through growth, not purchase."
Derry City begin their Premier Division season away to Bohemians on February 24th.
Kenny Shiels, along with FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin and Premier Division managers John Caulfield, Ollie Horgan, Stephen Bradley, Pete Mahon feature in this week's SSE Airtricity League Podcast.