The dust had barely settled on their League One play-off semi-final defeat when Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, began outlining his plans for next term, writes James Shield.
Yes, he acknowledged, failing to deliver Championship football during his first full campaign at the helm was a bitter disappointment.
But, as conversation unfolded pitchside at the County Ground, clues about the composition of the squad likely to be charged with ensuring it is only a temporary hiccup began to emerge. In between the expected gestures of defiance.
“You can see the potential we’ve got,” Clough said. “When you see young Che (Adams) coming on and doing so well.
“Paul Coutts and Jamie Murphy did well out there. Ryan Flynn too. When you consider all of that, before you’ve even brought anyone in, there’s a lot there.
“We’re only 18 months in. We’ve gone from bottom six to top six in that time. I know that’s not good enough for some but there you go.
“We’ve progressed even though, ultimately, we’ve failed with regards to promotion.”
Clough acknowledges the court of public of opinion is likely to reach a contradictory ruling on whether that is, in fact, the case. Nevertheless, the former England international’s words confirm he retains the hunger and desire to carry on.
Monday’s 5-5 draw in Wiltshire, which condemned United to a 7-6 aggregate defeat, was both a chastening and revelatory experience for the visitors. It exposed the defensive flaws which have prompted Clough to make a centre-half his top priority in the transfer market but also confirmed that, in the teenage Adams and Matt Done, United possess two dynamic players capable of turbo-charging an attack also set to benefit from the experience Marc McNulty has accumulated since arriving in South Yorkshire 12 months ago.
Bolstering United’s options at the back would also enable Chris Basham to cement a place in midfield where he has excelled in recent weeks.
“We’ve learned a lot about the players out there,” Clough said. “We also learned more about what we need for next season.
“We had a pretty good idea already, it confirmed some things out there. Centre-half is the priority. You can see the qualities Bash brings to midfield.
“He wins the ball, he breaks play up and he can score goals. It depends on how many we bring in, centre-halves, whether he is regarded as one or not.”