OPINION: Premier League football dream dies for Derby
Derby County's dream of Premier League football finally died for another season at Craven Cottage last night where the Rams were outclassed by a determined Fulham side who now head to Wembley for the play-off final.
A lack of ability in the final third saw Derby struggle to make any serious attack on the Fulham goal and another season of second tier football awaits us in August.
It’s now time for the summer break and every Derby fan will no doubt be keeping one eye on the sports pages for news of any incomings and outgoings up to the new season.
It’s quite clear where some positions need attention and Gary Rowett will no doubt have his own theories of where to strengthen and, indeed, what to address.
After hefty spending by previous managers, Rowett will have to wheel and deal in the transfer market.
Darren Bent, Jason Shackell and Chris Baird are now off the payroll, but what equally needs sorting are the futures of Craig Bryson, Jacob Butterfield, Nick Blackman etc.
With the exception of Bryson the others appear to have no way back into the Derby squad.
But Bryson could see himself wanted on a permanent basis by Cardiff City as they enter a Premier League campaign.
The only Derby player that would command a big fee is perhaps Matej Vydra.
The top scorer in the Championship could be sold to generate more funds for Rowett to add to the squad, but departures will be necessary whatever his wishes are.
An unsustainable wage bill will make owner Mel Morris wary of adding to a squad which is amongst the most costly in the division.
One thing Gary Rowett did prove during his tenures at Burton Albion and Birmingham City is his ability to get results without the need for massive spending. That talent will be needed in the new season.
Looking back it’s been a good season overall for the club and they have exceeded my expectations of a top 10 finish, though it’s fair to say that in December, when second and five points clear, expectations rose.
But the perennial winter collapse saw yet another missed opportunity.
It is time to move on and think about August and stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
Well done to Fulham on a thoroughly deserved victory.
They will now meet the winners of Aston Villa v Middlesbrough, who play tonight.
Two sets of fans from those three clubs will be feeling the same way as us over the next 12 days and one set will be partying their way to promotion.
Bring on the next chapter!