West Ham United manager Alan Pardew reflects on the heartbreaking defeat in the play-off final and the rest of the season:
NOW after weÂ¹ve all had a few days to reflect on the Play-Off Final defeat in Millennium Stadium, the disappointment of not achieving promotion back to the Premiership is still firmly in our minds.
I'd like to personally thank all those 33,800 Hammers supporters who travelled to Cardiff. They were magnificent as usual and did themselves and the Club proud.
Our performance level against Crystal Palace could have been much better but we canÂ¹t change the result. Defeat is certainly not the end of the world. WeÂ¹ve just missed out this time and have all felt the heartache, now we must move on.
One positive side is that the players will have gained an enormous amount of experience from that Final.
Players IÂ¹ve brought in such as Jobi McAnuff, Adam Nowland, Nigel Reo-Coker, Bobby Zamora, Hayden Mullins and Marlon Harewood, have all had the chance to pull on the West Ham United shirt and realise just how big a club this is and what is expected of them.
They will be much more comfortable wearing it next season.
Even Stephen Bywater, who has done a great job taking over from David James, will be a better goalkeeper next season with the experience heÂ¹s gained. Our aim is to now avoid the Play-Offs next season and go all out for the First Division title.
I have assembled a talented, young squad who will benefit from being together all pre-season.
Unlike last year the squad does not have to be rebuilt. We will start the new season extremely confident and I firmly believe we are good enough to win automatic promotion.
We've had our critics, but you must remember the side that played in Cardiff was the same team that produced West Ham's best performance of the season against Ipswich Town in the semi-final second-leg.
Unfortunately the players couldn't match it 11 days later. IÂ¹m certain the new system that's now in place at Chadwell Heath will stand us in good stead. In this pre-season we will be able to run tests on all the squad from the start and therefore be in a position to monitor and assess their various fitness levels throughout the season.
That is an important factor in our preparation that we didnÂ¹t have this year. Sports scientist Tony Strudwick is already preparing programmes to ensure the players are at their ultimate both physically and mentally.
The Final against Palace was our 56th competitive game of the season. The experience of playing a 50 plus game season will help the players cope with the pressures and stresses of that in 2004-05.
Occasionally during the season the number of games played in a short space of time was a problem. That wonÂ¹t happen next time because we all know what to expect and will deal with it.
I had a debrief with the players on Monday and the firm belief amongst them was they will be better, stronger and more determined to move forward and succeed next season. Have a good summer.