Budget tight but Long is upbeat
Keith Long is confident that the core of his Bohemians squad will follow the example of his in-demand keeper Shane Supple and commit to the club for next year.
Supple gave Long and the club a major boost last week when, despite being coveted by rival clubs, he extended his contract until the end of 2017, but the rest of the first team squad are out of contract when the season ends at the end of the month.
Bohs fans will be putting in the mileage to see their side before the 2016 season closes as tonight's game in Derry is the first of three successive away games, an aggregate trek of over 1,100km for the next two weeks, the side closing the curtain on the home season with a win over Shamrock Rovers last week, but whatever shape the side has next term, Supple will be there.
"It's great for us that Shane is staying on," says Long. "I wouldn't say that he can become the No 1 keeper in the league next year, because to me he is the best keeper in the league right now.
"The general public probably aren't aware of that yet as he hasn't had a full season but to have him here for a full season would be great.
"Re-signing Shane was a real coup for us, there were lots of interested parties and Shane had lot of admirers but he's agreed to stay, he is the calibre of player we want at this club and hopefully with him signing, others will follow.
"We're in negotiations with a good number of the squad and we hope they will re-sign for next year," added Long.
"I am working with a budget that is very restrictive and your hands are tied, so I want to retain our key players, I hope that the likes of Keith Buckley and Roberto Lopes will want to stay, this is their club, but we have to match their ambition, we have to see the club progress and it all has to be a proper fit."
Currently sixth, a fifth-place finish is the best they can hope for with Sligo Rovers - who have the best defensive record in the league with American keeper Ciarán Nugent keeping four straight clean sheets - ahead of Long's side.
They face a test tonight away to a Derry side keen to secure a place in the top three ahead of rivals Shamrock Rovers.
"We have struggled against Derry this season," says Long.
Meanwhile, Bray Wanderers try to get back to winning ways at home to St Pat's following last week's loss.
"We had a tough game last Friday and a long journey back after being defeated, but we used the experience and the journey back to build an even stronger team spirit," says manager Harry Kenny.