Phillip Cocu says it has been ‘a pleasure’ to be part of the Derby County family following the conclusion of his first season as the club’s manager.
Cocu, 49, was appointed as Derby’s boss last July following the departure following Frank Lampard’s departure to Chelsea.
The Dutchman’s late arrival, which came four days into Derby’s pre-season, and loss of several key players from the 2018/19 season provided him with an unenviable challenge of getting the side prepared for the 2019/20 campaign in a short period of time.
Implementing his style of play and way of working, as well as getting to know his players, was always going to take time and after a slow start to the season, Derby eventually hit their stride after Christmas.
A more consistent level of results and performances, from the team and individuals, showed Derby’s progress and the fruits of the manager and his staff’s labours on the training pitches.
In fact, a run of five successive wins either side of the break in the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak propelled Derby into play-off contention.
Despite falling short in that regard, that should not detract away from a positive and progressive first season in the hotseat for Cocu both on the pitch and behind the scenes.
Known as a manager not afraid to give youth a chance, the likes of Max Bird, Jason Knight and Louie Sibley grasped the opportunity to step up from the Academy to the first-team with both hands.
Derby produced some eye-catching displays during the season, especially at Pride Park Stadium, and showed enough promising signs to suggest there’s plenty to build on going into the 2020/21 season.
There were some tough moments too, on and off the pitch, but regardless of the challenges the Derby boss faced them all head on.
Cocu feels there is plenty to be upbeat about, including the club’s supporters, and he is already looking to future and how the Rams can improve going forward.
“It’s hard to do it in a few minutes,” Cocu told RamsTV when asked to sum up the season in charge of Derby.
“It has been a pleasure of being part of the Derby County family and I have impressed throughout the season (with the club and fans) when we played in front of our fans.
“From day one, when we played a friendly game in Florida last July, our fans watched us out there and the sessions and all the home games at Pride Park. It is impressive in how they have supported us so it is great to be part of it.
“You get more insights into the Academy and the people that work for the club who always give their best and contribute throughout the whole club.”
He added: “It is great to be part of it. There have been positives throughout the season, but also you have to be realistic and realise that we need to make a step forward to be able to continue to build in a positive way towards next season.”
Cocu accepts finishing in 10th place is where the Rams deserve to be and that, overall, they have not been good enough to push for a top-six spot.
Derby concluded the campaign with a 3-1 victory at Birmingham City on Wednesday evening, with youngsters Morgan Whittaker and Louie Sibley on target late on to secure all three points for the side.
The former PSV Eindhoven title-winning manager is already keen to freshen up his squad so his side can kick on again next season.
Asked if he was satisfied with where Derby concluded the campaign, Cocu said: “At the moment, it’s just the way it worked out at the end of the season.
“We had to play the top teams and you must be realistic that at this stage of where we are as a club; we are not good enough to beat them.
“Mid-table justifies where we are at now. We were close to getting a real shot at the play-offs, but we are not good enough this season.
“We are working hard behind the scenes to get some fresh blood in, get the team set up with the experience we have this season with the goal to make it next season.”