MATT Gilks has admitted play-off heartbreak meant last season “counted for nothing”.
Pool played 49 league games last term but defeat in their final fixture, against West Ham at Wembley, consigned them to another year of Championship football.
Ian Holloway has the task of picking up the squad and launching another promotion challenge next term.
But Gilks says that, even a fortnight on, Wembley heartbreak is taking some getting over.
“It was pretty brutal and horrible to experience a play-off final defeat and to have to watch the other team go up and get the trophy,” admitted Gilks, as the Seasiders player of the season winner reflected on an awful end to a fine year.
“The whole season means nothing. It is the one game that you need to win. There is no point winning 48 games and not winning the one you need to.
“So although we were very proud about getting to Wembley again – and privileged too – it was a terrible afternoon really and not something I’d want to go through again.
“It is worst than the previous year. We were written off anyway, and we were always up against it in the Premier League, with it containing the best teams in the world.
“To bounce back like we did last year in the Championship was a great achievement but it was just such a pity we couldn’t finish it off.”
Like most of his team-mates though, Gilks firmly believes the Seasiders will be able to pick themselves off the floor and bounce back.
“We have more than enough quality really to be going up automatic. That is our aim next year.
“Forget the play-offs, I think we have a good enough team to do it automatic. Performances like the one against West Ham at Wembley show we’ve got that potential.”
Gilks added: “It is an all-round good team, with Tom Ince and Matty Phillips bombing forward, and the back four.
“Ian Evatt was as magnificent as usual, particularly over the last couple of months, and Alex Baptiste has just been brilliant all season.
“So we’ve got quality throughout the squad. It is just about our belief now of where we can actually take ourselves.
“It is inevitable that some teams will be looking at some of our players and rightly so, a few of them have been outstanding this season.
“But if we can keep the squad together then we give ourselves a massive chance because this is the first year this team has been together and we got to the play-off final, so if we can stay together for a second year then we could go all the way.”