Frank Lampard said he is proud of everything he and his players have achieved at Derby County this season despite losing Monday's Championship play-off final to Aston Villa.
The Rams produced a late flurry to nearly force extra-time having seemingly looked out of the game at 2-0 down before Jack Marriott's 83rd minute goal sparked them into life.
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But ultimately Derby wouldn't have enough in the tank to end the season with promotion.
Lampard said: "It was a tighly-contested game that it's cruel to lose but that's football sometimes.
"It's unfortunate that we've lost at the end of a really good season but the feeling was that we were just so happy to be here.
"It's a great achievement from the players - they worked so hard to try and win the big one and in the end it was small margins. We made mistakes for both goals which came at crucial times.
"We didn't do enough when we had the ball, especially in the first-half and in the final third. Martyn Waghorn wasn't fit enough to start and Jack Marriott had the sort of impact I planned for him to have as a substitute but in the end we were slightly off."
Attention now turns to the future for both Derby County and Lampard, with fans hoping the two will remain together as the club aims to go one better next season.
And Lampard says that talks over the club's plans for the next campaign will be crucial ones in the coming days.
He said: "I've had no conversations with other clubs and my focus is on how we can compete next year.
"We have a lot of loans and lots of players whose contracts are about to end so recruitment is going to be so important - we can't compete with a squad of 13, it needs to be a good 20-man squad full of players who can all play a part, rather than like this season where a lot of the wage bill was taken up by players who weren't featuring.
"This club gave me an opportunity and I've really enjoyed it. I love the players as a group and it's hard to see them so upset after losing that game, but I know from my own experiences that life goes on and pre-season will soon be upon us.
"The talks will be crucial but Mel Morris has the final say and whatever he wants to work with is what I'll work with, but I'd love to be able to build on what we've achieved this year and recruitment will be key to that."