That season we lost narrowly in the playoff semi finals again. My message to everyone – staff, and players – after that game was simple. Make sure that when you come back the disappointment is gone.
None of us – me included – could come back with anything other than a positive intent for the following season. If we returned with any lack of clarity as to what we needed we’d have had a nightmare.
From the first day back we talked about promotion. That’s what everybody expects you to get, so why be afraid of it?
We started that season well, but it was around Christmas that we really hit the run of form that got us promoted. Between mid-December and April we didn’t lose a single game.
“In football there are lots of different ways of finding success”
Gaining momentum is hard, but once you’ve got it it’s about not messing around with things too much. We used to work at what we did – we’d plan for what we’d do in games. But if I’m honest, one of the big things in that season was feeling that the players were confident.
We’re not talking about technical stuff here. We’re talking about managing the mood – allowing people to feel good, and to drive it themselves. What they need from the staff is structure, and the belief that what we are doing is alright.
I thought we’d do better the following season, in the Premier League, than we did. We’d constructed a team that we thought was good enough to get there – one we thought might be good enough once we were in it, too.
Some of the games we expected to do better in we drew. We were losing at home. At times it was a struggle to find a rhythm that allowed us to win games. In every league in the world, when you go from the second division to the top you get punished by players who have that extra bit of quality.