Curtis Davies believes Derby County will only be stronger for the experiences they encountered over the course of a ‘rollercoaster’ 2017/18 campaign.
The 33-year-old centre back started every single Sky Bet Championship game for Gary Rowett’s side and was a key figure as the Rams secured their third top-six finish in five years after signing for the club from Hull City in June.
After joining from the Tigers, the centre back immediately said that claiming a play-off spot was his aim with Derby.
There, Rowett’s men came up against a Fulham side that Davies felt should have won automatic promotion, but despite giving it everything, the Cottagers edged out 2-1 winners over two legs to secure a place in the showpiece Wembley final.
“I said when I came here that I wanted to make the play-offs,” the defender told RamsTV.
“We managed that, but obviously I would have liked to have gone all the way and got back to the Premier League.
“When you look at the season, overall, and see how we have been up and down. That and the fact we came up against a Fulham side that really should have gone up automatically, meant it was always going to be tough over two legs.
“I honestly believe that if you meet them in a one-off, you have got a good chance, but the way they move the ball, the way they play, means it was always going to be tough.
“It was hugely disappointing to go out, but it is something that we will learn from and be stronger for next season.”
What did Davies learn over the course of his first year as a Ram?
“You learn things from where you can draw strength from low moments and also from times where you can be a bit naïve,” he added.
“We got ourselves into a position where we were second in the league and going quite well. We had a few bad results and all of a sudden, we found ourselves outside of the play-offs.
“At the same time, when we spoke about the Burton result a few weeks ago, we weren’t even expected to make the top-six.
“To come back strong from that disappointment, the three defeats in a row, make the play-offs and push Fulham all the way, we had to give absolutely everything.
“They had to give everything they had too, but credit to them, the best team went through. It’s still raw at this point, but I think we will be stronger for these experiences.”
Were there any surprises along the way?
“Before coming here, over the last few years things hadn’t been particularly great, so it was a bit of a rollercoaster,” Davies said.
“In that sense, this first year with the club was exactly what I expected. The rollercoaster ride Derby fans told me I would get was exactly what I got, it’s just a shame that the rollercoaster didn’t go all the way up into the Premier League.
“At the start of the season, the target was to get into the play-offs. For myself, personally, I thought we could do that with the squad that we have and once you’re in there you just have to give it the best shot you have got.
“Ninety minutes was enough against Fulham, 180 was too tough. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
With the season over, Davies and the rest of his Derby team-mates have departed from the Training Centre for their summer breaks before reconvening for pre-season ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
With a bit more time on his hands, the Rams’ centre back will be applying his focus to his Journalism course at University, squeezing in a couple of holidays and switching off, but will have one eye on making sure that he is in prime condition to hit the ground running when Derby return for pre-season training.
“We will get a holiday in first and foremost and just try and switch off,” Davies said.
“That’s the biggest thing for any footballer. After that, I will have a week at University – which is TV week – as part of my journalism course, before I go away one last time before the new season starts.
“These holidays are short and sharp, but whilst it is important to switch off from it all a bit, it’s equally as important to make sure we are doing our bit to come back fit.
“Nowadays, you have to be fit for pre-season, rather than using pre-season to get fit.”
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