Curtis Davies has seen plenty over the course of his long and successful playing career - but admits the 2021/22 season at Derby County has been something new even for him.
Derby officially lost their fight to stay in the Sky Bet Championship on Easter Monday following a 1-0 loss at Queens Park Rangers, meaning a return to the third tier for the first time since the 1980s.
Relegation has not come as a result of the Rams not being good enough and enduring a poor season, but the hefty 21-points deducted from their season’s total. Without it, they’d be playing Championship football next year.
First up was a 12-point deduction for entering administration in September of last year, followed by a further nine points two months later for a historical breach of profitability and sustainability rules.
Those sanctions ultimately left Wayne Rooney’s side with too big a mountain to climb and, despite being relegated, the Rams’ players were given a standing ovation by the 1,900 fans in the away end.
Davies, 37, has played a key role on and off the pitch during the campaign and has spoken of his pride at the way the whole club has come together in the most testing of circumstances.
“It is a strange feeling,” Davies told RamsTV. “It is hard to be upset at this moment, but obviously we are upset that we’ve gone down to League One.
“The manager touched on it after the game that there’s a feeling of pride in the group and it is hard to be upset with the fight that we gave.
“No-one gave us a chance of staying up with the first points deduction, so when the second one came in November it was the impossible dream for us.
“We’ve taken it this far, and would have loved to have taken it further, which is a credit to us. We didn’t lie down or surrender, we have always kept trying, and that is the message we will take into the final three games.
“We want to end the season on a high to take into the summer with our pride and standards.”
He added: “We were relegated yesterday but it wasn’t that one game that decided our fate; when you are deducted 21 points it is always going to be difficult.”
Despite the trials and tribulations off the field, Derby have enjoyed a positive season on the pitch.
Their home form is up with the very best in the Championship and the division’s top two, Fulham and AFC Bournemouth, have both left Pride Park Stadium pointless.
Davies, who has played every minute of every league game so far this season for Derby, says the support the players have received from the stands has been nothing short of immense.
“Throughout the adversity, I have to say that the positivity throughout the club has been amazing,” he said. “We’ve been clapped off the pitch losing a local derby at Forest, going down 4-1 at Middlesbrough and getting the same treatment and being clapped off after being relegated.
“It is something really amazing and it a new experience to me. It really is heartfelt to say we appreciate the support we’ve been getting, especially with a young group of players trying to make their way in the game.
“We’ve had some many positives this season and we need to take them into the final three games and the future too.”
He concluded: “Obviously the takeover needs to get sorted and then things can move forward in terms of stabilising the club and bouncing back.”