Long-servant Bailey Wright believes he and his Preston team-mates can be rightly proud of their accomplishments this season.
The 23-year-old stopped short of calling it ‘the perfect season’, but agreed that the club probably could not have hoped for a better first season back in the Championship.
Consolidation was the name of the game for North End last summer after finally securing promotion from League One thanks to a glorious play-off final victory over Swindon Town at Wembley.
There were not too many punters tipping the club to feature at the top end of the Championship at the start of the season.
In fact many people were expecting to see the club stuck in a relegation battle at the bottom.
Apart from a few worrying weeks in the early stages of the season, North End have navigated a clear path away from the danger zone over the course of the campaign.
And while they have not really ever been mentioned in the promotion race, they have at times flirted with the play-offs.
An excellent run in 2016 saw them move to a season’s best of eighth in the table and just handful of points behind the top six.
Although that late charge up the table has petered out in recent weeks, North End are guaranteed a top-half finish no matter what the result on the final day of the season this weekend against Leeds United at Deepdale.
“I wouldn’t call it the perfect season ,” said Wright, who has been at the club since 2009.
“The perfect season for us would be winning the league, wouldn’t it?
“But no I think a lot of people were doubting us, as to whether we would be able to stay up and do well in this division.
“There were a lot of people outside the club who were doubting us. We always believed in ourselves and knew that we had that winning mentality.
“Obviously we have carried that on from last year and we knew we could do that in the Championship.
“We managed to add a few players, which made the squad a bit stronger and that has definitely helped us.”
The fact that North End secured their status in the division for another year a long time ago has meant there has been something of a ‘feel good factor’ around the club.
However, Wright was quick to dismiss the notion that the squad have taken their foot off the gas in any way shape or form.
“It’s been good, but I would not say the atmosphere has necessarily been relaxed,” Wright said.
“We have still wanted to do well in our games.
“I think we proved that at Reading last weekend when we won 2-1 that we are still trying push on and finish as high as we can in the table. We maybe have been a little bit unlucky with a few of our results over the past few weeks.
“But we have got one more game to go against Leeds.
“It’s nice to finish with a home game and hopefully we can finish on a high with a win.
“Leeds are obviously a very big club and I am sure they will have a big following. They will be wanting to end the season with a win also.”
Having enjoyed such a strong season, attention – certainly among the fans – has turned towards next season.
The hope is that manager Simon Grayson and his team can build on the success of this season and make a concerted effort for the play-offs.
Wright, though, revealed that no targets have been set with regards to the future, although there is a real hunger within the squad to progress the club further still
“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going for next season,” Wright said.
“I would say we have had a successful season, but we always have goals and we want to keep pushing higher. We’ve still got one game of this season to go, so we’ve not made any plans for the futur but I’m sure everybody, both collectively and individually, know what we want to do.
“I am sure the players will want to get a taste of the play-offs and promotion again.
“People often say that the second season after promotion is always the more difficult one. Teams will know a bit more about you, but that’s football.
“You don’t know what might happen.
“It shouldn’t really be harder because, as a team, we know the division a lot better and I guess we will be more respected by other clubs. But we can’t afford to relax thinking that we have had a good season, so we’ll do it again next year.
“You’ve got to make sure you work even harder and give ourselves the best opportunity to possibly push for the play-offs.”
At the end-of-season awards, Wright was rewarded for all the good work he does off the pitch by being presented with the club’s PFA community champion award.
“ I think the club as a whole is heading in the right direction, not just what we do on the football pitch but things we do out in the community as well,” Wright proudly said.