Neill Collins has warned Sheffield United they must learn from their mistakes this season in order to challenge for promotion next term, writes James Shield.
But the centre-half, speaking after the club’s hopes of reaching the League One play-offs were dashed following Easter Monday’s stalemate with Tranmere Rovers, remains convinced that Nigel Clough can bring Championship football back to Bramall Lane.
Collins told The Star: “It’s remarkable, when you think where we were not so long back, that we’ve even been talking about the top six and that we believed we have a chance. That’s testament to the job Nigel Clough, his staff and the rest of the lads have done.
“But it does make you look back to the start we had. It shows that you’ve got to pick up positive results on a consistent basis from the very beginning if you want to get in there and, if you want automatic, you can only afford one bad run.
“That slow start definitely cost us and we’ve got to learn from that.”
United were 21st in the table when Clough was appointed six months ago after winning only two of their opening 13 games.
They head to Port Vale on Friday ranked eighth and would be third - level on points with second-place and above the likes of Brentford, Peterborough and Preston North End - if only results since February counted.
Collins, a member of the team which reached the FA Cup semi-finals earlier this month, added: “I can’t wait to get started next season and going to Wembley just reinforced why. That’s the carrot, to have more days like that at Wembley and Bramall Lane.
“But if we want to do that then we’ve got to hit the ground running. There’s a real buzz here now, though, about what the future might hold.”