Watch Nigel Pearson's extended interview with ITV News West Country
Ahead of the start of the new season, Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson has insisted he has a squad capable of mounting a challenge for the Premier League this season - despite being unable to spend big this summer.
In an extended interview with ITV News West Country on the eve of the new Championship season, the manager discusses the 'fascinating challenge' he faces at Ashton Gate, recent health issues and why for him there's more to life than football.
"The players believe they can be involved in the promotion shake-up," he said.
"Whether that's achievable or not depends on many things. Operating with a smaller squad means it's really important we keep our key players - and they're all key players - fit."
The challenge has been made all the harder by a tight transfer budget following huge financial losses in recent years. New signings have been few, and largely free.
"We're not going for marquee signings," he said. "It's not about that. We are not in a position to do that and I'm not interested in doing that.
"What's important is we recognise the squad we've already got and how we best improve that, I want us to enjoy the challenge, and I want the fans to feel valued by us."
Last season was a breakthrough for some of the side's most exciting young talent, but a bottom-half finish in the championship was a disappointment.
Inconsistent results and performances coincided with serious bouts of Covid for the manager, an experience which, for all his passion for the game, reminded him of life outside of it.
"I do get frustrated when I hear people talking about it being more than it is," Pearson said. "It's a sport, but it's my job and I want to be as successful as possible.
"It's a fascinating challenge and that's what tweaks me more than anything - and there is the added ingredient here that we're still trying to achieve the holy grail of the Premier League."
To escape the stresses, the 58-year-old father of two surrounds himself with family and friends or takes to the hills near his Devon home for long, isolated walks.
"Some people think I'm probably a bit miserable and downbeat but I'm not at all," he said. "The important thing for me is not to live and breathe football 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I've never done it and I don't intend to start now."
With a three-year contract, Pearson concedes this could be his last job in football but his hunger for success burns just as brightly.
"It would be great to achieve the Premier League dream in my tenure here - but if it doesn't happen, it won't stop me from continuing to work in a way I believe is the correct way for the club."