Fleetwood centre-half Cian Bolger says Fleetwood have shown they can compete at the top as they lick their wounds after missing out on promotion in the play-offs.
Many people would not have tipped Fleetwood to have a storming promotion-chasing season like the one which ended last Sunday – but not Bolger.
The 25-year-old, who finished his debut season at Highbury with the Player of theYear award after some outstanding performances in the heart of defence, says Town have proved they are good enough to battle it out with the big boys.
Town missed out on automatic promotion from League One by four points and were edged out in the play-offs by Bradford City 1-0 on aggregate.
And Bolger says that despite their underdog tag, there was always belief in the players that they could achieve something special.
And they were proved right, racking up their highest-ever League One placing (fourth) and points tally ( 82).
Bolger said: “You’ve always got to believe. There is no point coming out on the pitch and believing you can’t win games.
“I think there was always belief in the squad that we could achieve something this season. Obviously we have shown we are good enough to compete at the top.”
An ankle injury ruled Bolger out of the first-leg defeat at Valley Parade in the play-off semi-final, when Rory McArdle nodded in the only goal of the whole tie.
Bolger recovered to feature in last weekend’s home leg, in which he helped Town to keep another clean sheet.
However, Uwe Rosler’s side could not find that all-important goal and the Bantams will face Millwall at Wembley a week tomorrow.
Bolger says it is an experience Town’s young squad can build on and take into next season as they bid to battle it out at the right end of the table again.
The Irishman said: “We are a young squad and I think it is nothing but good experience.
“It is important for the lads to build on the experience and hopefully we can keep it going again next year.
“I think there was nothing between the two sides in the play-offs and nothing between us all season.
“It was one set-piece that has separated us in the play-offs and it is unfortunate it is not us that got it.”