Kevin Keen admitted Sunday's 3-0 last-day reverse at the hands of Sunderland was a game too far for West Ham United but was fulsome in praise for the supporters.
The caretaker manager had gone into the contest hopeful a young team would be able to provide some much-needed cheer after relegation was confirmed on the penultimate weekend. However, after a frenetic end-to-end opening ended with a freak Sunderland opener off Bolo Zenden's shoulder, the visitors were able to add two more goals and confirm a tenth-place finish with relative ease.
Keen said: "I went into the game with real hope and I think the first ten minutes of game, it was end to end. We had chances, they had chances. Zavon [Hines] has had a couple of great efforts. Thomas [Hitzlsperger] has hit a shot from a free-kick which perhaps someone should have been sniffing a little bit bitter [when it rebounded out] and then Bolo Zenden puts one in off his shoulder.
"It was disappointing and when you go one-nil down after what has happened this season, it was tough. Did I want the 90 minutes to end quickly at two-nil? No I wanted to keep going and I wanted us to get a goal.
"The players gave their all but unfortunately we came up against a Sunderland team that had a little bit too much experience. Perhaps they got a little bit of luck on the first goal. Unfortunately we couldn't get ourselves back in the game, the keeper made a couple of really good saves and that was the story of our season again."
What was also characteristic of the whole campaign was the magnificent home support, who turned out in good number and never turned on the team. Even as the second and third strikes were going in from Stephane Sessegnon and Cristian Riveros, the Boleyn backing was a credit.
They were able to find cheer with Scott Parker's late cameo off the bench, having picked up his Hammer of the Year prize prior to kick-off. The No8's future appears uncertain as does Robert Green's, but both men can be proud of their efforts. It was the fans who were the real star men, though.
Keen added: "As far as I am concerned the West Ham fans are the best in the world. Their support for the team has been amazing this season and the thing I always find great is they can always find a little bit of amusement whatever the situation. They can find the best in any situation. They kept supporting the lads to the end.
"I really hope that next year whatever the scenario, whether it is me or someone else, I really hope that we can repay them by playing some fantastic football and getting ourselves back in the Premeir League."
That question of who will succeed Avram Grant as the club's 14th full-time manager will dominate the coming days and possibly weeks. Keen would love the job but knows that whatever is decided, the right appointment will be made to help the Hammers return swiftly
"[The owners] will make the correct decision for West Ham United. They have poured millions and millions of pounds into this football club. They have made a tremendous move in getting the Olympic Stadium which I think this club needs as a boost and I am sure they will make the right decision."
Key will be which playing personnel remain and which are acquired. Keen was also sure the Board would do what is necessary to make for a strong Championship challenge in 2011/12. No star names - aside from those out of contract not offered new deals - would be allowed to leave cheaply.
"There is some rebuilding work to be done. I am sure the Chairmen will not let certain people go unless prices are met. To keep certain players is going to be difficult but the owners will not let them go for silly money because they are fantastic players worth a lot of money."
With a few injured absentees on Sunday including Manu da Costa (knee), Carlton Cole (neck), Mark Noble (groin) and Demba Ba (abdominal muscle), Keen's youthful team - boasting five starters from the Academy - were always going to find it a difficult afternoon. He was, however, only impressed with their enthusiasm and energy over the whole week.
"For the first couple of days it was difficult, we had the wake after the relegation. We had the club's gala dinner which got some absolutely ridiculous press because the players were exemplary with their behaviour. We put that behind us. We carried on in the week and I have got to say the boys were really good. Unfortunately it didn't transfer into the day but they can be the future for us."