Joe Dunne insists he will not make any “false promises” about where Colchester United might finish this season.

But the U’s boss has set a target of improvement - both individually and collectively - for the forthcoming campaign.

Colchester embark on another League One season when they host Oldham Athletic, tomorrow.

Dunne is expecting the division to be even tougher this season, with the likes of Sheffield United, Preston North End and Barnsley all expected to be in the promotion shake-up.

He said: “I think you’re going to see a split this season.

“I think we’ll see teams powerhouse their way through.

“They’re going to have to earn it but the expectation levels of those big city clubs are high.

“They probably wouldn’t be out of place in the Championship this season, so it’s going to be tough for clubs like ourselves.

“But we’re there and people have to earn the right to get out of this league.

“While we’re there, we’ll compete against these teams and make sure we give a good account of ourselves.

“What we must do is focus on us and my focus is to improve on last year, both collectively and on an individual basis.

“Expectation levels are extremely high, at a lot of other clubs in the league.

“I’m not going to make any false promises or shout from the rooftops about where we can finish and what we can do, just for the sake of it.

“We’re realistic as a club and over the last two or three seasons, we’ve done really well to maintain our League One status and encourage more young people to come to our stadium.”

With the likes of Brian Wilson, Ryan Dickson and Clinton Morrison having moved on this summer, Colchester will have a more youthful squad this season.

The likes of Sammie Szmodics, Macauley Bonne and Frankie Kent are all expected to play a bigger role for the U’s, in the forthcoming campaign.

“We’re a year older, stronger and hopefully wiser and the young players are a year older now and have been with us for 18 months,” said Dunne.

“We have got some experience in the right areas but generally, we’re far younger than we are older.”

Dunne is preparing for his second full season in charge of the U’s, having succeeded John Ward in the hot seat in September, 2012.

He is looking forward to getting underway tomorrow but insists the Oldham clash will not define Colchester’s season - whatever the result.

Dunne added: “I think this is the most relaxed I’ve been at the start of any season.

“As a player, you’re always excited as you want to get picked and you want to play.

“As a manager, you want to get going and get back into the swing of it.

“But I’ve been learning a lot as a manager over the last few seasons.

“No league will be won on the first day of the season, whether you win or you lose.

“You can have the best intentions but no matter what you do over the next few months, you’re going to get praised and you’re going to get criticised.

“I don’t see the rollercoaster being any different and it’s allowed me to keep an emotional lid on things and try and develop the players.”

For a three-page preview of Colchester's first game of the season at home to Oldham Athletic, including an interview with new loan signing George Moncur, see Friday's Daily Gazette.