Steve Potts was left delighted as his West Ham United U23s recorded a final day victory against league winners Everton but admitted the group have not been ruthless enough throughout the campaign as they were relegated from Premier League 2 Division 1 despite the win.
The Hammers went into the London Stadium fixture knowing nothing but a win would do in order to steer clear of the bottom two on the last day, however they were relying on Tottenham Hotspur to drop points in their home encounter with Derby County.
And though the east Londoners did their bit, beating the Toffees – who were crowned champions a fortnight ago – Spurs’ Jack Roles scored a hat-trick to down the Rams and secure safety for the north Londoners.
Potts praised his team’s performance but explained why the side should have never been in the position they were on the final day.
Deep down, it wasn’t about tonight’s game, it was other games throughout the season that put us in this position. It was about being more ruthless overall during the season.
He said: “It was a good performance and a good result, but unfortunately it’s not enough. Deep down, it wasn’t about tonight’s game, it was other games throughout the season that put us in this position to try and scrape our way out of it, relying on other results tonight. That’s the main reason.
“It was a positive one tonight. But we had good positions in previous games that we let go. Chelsea home and away, we should have got points from. We were 2-0 up at Chelsea and were beaten, we were 1-0 up at Brighton with ten minutes to go and got beaten, so it was just about being more ruthless overall during the season.
“Most games we have been in, competing but just got edged out and we’ve ended up thinking ‘how have we let that one go’. The message to the boys is being more ruthless individually and as a group.
“We’ve scored two good goals tonight and had other chances as well which we didn’t make the most of, but on the flip side, the one we let in was a soft one.
“That’s not what you’re looking for at first team level; not letting those sloppy ones in and switching off. That’s what happened for their goal and that put us under a bit of pressure.”
Despite the campaign ultimately ending in relegation, Potts looked back on what has been a hugely positive season in many other ways.
“We look back with lots of pride on the season,” he continued. “There were a few who have played for the first team, others who have been in matchday squads, a few on loan have done really well, and that’s what it’s all about.
“You’re just looking for the next ones to keep coming through. As one goes to the first team, where’s the next one? That’s what it’s got to be about, like a conveyer belt. That’s the aim for the next group coming through.
“Players can look at this group and know that the opportunity is there if you play well. There are a few great examples of that, who have shown ability and the manager has trusted them to put them in the team. He’s got the U23s training on the pitch next to him, and we walk off as the first team are training.
“It’s under their noses what it’s all about. From the young boys’ point of view, you don’t have to look any further than a Mark Noble or a Declan Rice, what it’s all about.
“The messages are there from all our staff, but when they see the first team train, you have to be inspired and take on board what it’s all about. And that’s been great for the boys from that point of view so long may that continue.”