Phillip Cocu is convinced that Derby County will be all the better for their experiences over the course of the 2019/20 season.
In his first season in charge, following his appointment in July 2019, Derby finished tenth in the Sky Bet Championship.
Cocu, by his own admission, has had various challenges to overcome both on and off the pitch over the last 12 months.
The 49-year-old took charge at Pride Park Stadium as Frank Lampard’s replacement, after he was appointed as Chelsea’s Head Coach, and inherited a squad which had lost several key players from the 2018/19 season.
The first half of the campaign was inconsistent in Derby’s results and performances, for a number of reasons, but the second half of the season provided plenty of reasons to be positive.
Strong performances and good results, alongside a five-game winning run either side of the three-month suspension of the season following the COVID-19 outbreak, saw the Rams mount a late play-off challenge.
They weren’t able to occupy a top-six spot, unfortunately, but they achieved a top ten finish and were six points adrift of the play-off places.
Cocu believes there’s good reason to be positive for the future and that Derby will benefit from the challenges they’ve had to face throughout the extended 2019/20 season.
Speaking to RamsTV, Cocu said: “All my life being in football, I have never experienced a season like this and I’m not just talking about myself, I’m talking about everybody.
“It’s really been remarkable in many ways but I always try to deal with the circumstances and events which occur in the best possible way for the club, the players and the team.
“I try to be transparent, open and sometimes life means that you have to overcome some challenges, which we’ve had to do.
“Sometimes we did good, sometimes we struggled but it’s also the experience we take to the future. We will benefit next season.”
Derby’s players and staff are now on their post-season break before attentions turn to the 2020/21 campaign.
Following the extension to the season, with matches played behind-closed-doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the squad will have a short period of time to rest before returning for pre-season.
Cocu admits there’s an element of unknown for many clubs going into the upcoming campaign and says the Rams will have to be ‘creative’ as they look to build on the positives on show during his first year in charge.
Cocu said: “Next season is so difficult to predict right now because for many clubs it’s an extraordinary situation with the transfer window open for quite a while.
“There will be changes and the financial situation will be different for a lot of clubs, as well as us, so we have to be creative but make sure we have a competitive team.
“Next season we will set our goals to try and get in the play-offs, not as an ambition but as a goal but we need the resources to get a team together to say that is realistic to have that as a goal.”
He added: “It’s something we work on every day now but as for many teams it will be a challenge in this period.”