GARY Rowett was already working out how to improve his Burton Albion side as the final whistle blew at Wembley yesterday.
As the Brewers lost 1-0 to Fleetwood in the League Two play-off final, Rowett was one step ahead, already thinking of 2014/15.
“As soon as the final whistle went, flashing through my mind is what do we need to do next season to become better,” he said.
“And I think we will do – and we’ll have another excellent season next year.”
The manager has already got his summer targets in mind as he looks to involve Albion in a third consecutive promotion battle.
Many pundits wrote the Brewers off this season after their play-off disappointment in 2012/13, but Rowett has proved them wrong.
He hopes to do so again.
“We’ll have enough with what we bring in in the summer, and we try to move things forward all the time, and try to use business principles and see if we can get marginally better each season,” he said.
“Can we improve this club slowly and in a sustainable manner?
“We have to look at the players who will leave the club in the summer, of which there will undoubtedly be some, and we need to see if we can bring some better players in who can maybe give us the elements that have possibly stopped us going up automatically this season.
“Those wheels have been in motion in the last few weeks and going up automatically wouldn’t have changed the picture drastically.
“It would’ve been lovely to have been playing in League One, but we still want to be a better team.
“We can’t go out there and spend vast amounts of money to do that.
“So, we’ll do what we’ve always done and try to improve slowly.”
Dean Lyness’ mistake handed Fleetwood the winner yesterday, but Rowett refused to pin the blame on his goalkeeper.
He instead pointed out that Albion would not have been in the final without the saves the 22-year-old made against Southend in the semi-finals.
“I said to him to get your chin up,” said Rowett.
“Unfortunately, in a lot of these games we’ve seen over the past few weeks – the play-off games, the Champions League final – often a mistake dictates the result and defines a close game.
“That’s what it did. He’s been excellent and (apart from the goal) his handling was very good today.
“He made one or two saves early on when perhaps we were nervous and conceded a couple of corners.
“I can’t be disappointed with him – he’s going to be disappointed enough in himself.
“But if it wasn’t for him then someone else on one of the sides would’ve made the mistake.
“He’s got to learn from it and become better because of it.
“I’m not going to sit here and berate my keeper, who’s been fantastic over these last four or five games.
“You look at the second leg against Southend and you could argue one or two of his saves got us into this position
“It’s difficult to imagine how’s he’s feeling sat in that dressing room.
“He probably feels exactly the same as the other players. They’ve given everything over the whole season.
“Because of what’s happened over the last three or four weeks if we’d won today it would’ve been an incredible triumph in adversity.
“Even last night Billy Kee had to go home to tend to his pregnant wife and probably had about two hours’ sleep.
“It typifies the spirit we’ve had all season.
“Maybe one or two of those things left us just a little bit short on the day.”
Despite defeat, Rowett was proud of his players after they bucked the trend and put together back-to-back seasons of success.
“You’ve got two choices – I said it to the players after the Bradford game,” he said.
“I said they had to use this little bit of pain to become much stronger and we certainly have this season.
“It’s been a very difficult and challenging season – probably much more than last year – but we’ve come back stronger and ended up with a great day for the fans and everyone involved with the club.
“Perhaps not so good for the players, but you’ve got to see if you can use perhaps what left us a little bit short on the day and get that in our team for next season to push us forwards.
“That’s all you can do.”