Andrew Hughes says a shorter queue for the treatment table is a must if Preston North End are to push for the play-offs again next year.
Hughes was one of several players to have an early finish to this campaign because of injury and admits having so many casualties ‘killed the season’.
The Welshman suffered a torn hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Birmingham in March and did not play again.
With Hughes and several of his colleagues sat in the stand, PNE took only four points from their last eight games and slipped to finish in 14th place.
“There is no doubt in my mind that injuries really killed our season,” Hughes told the Lancashire Post.
“You are rarely going to have every player available because it’s a physical game. But maybe if it was one or two out injured rather than seven, eight or nine, we wouldn’t have finished the season like we did.
“You can cover for a couple of injuries, that is what your squad is for.
“When so many players are out though, it becomes really difficult as we found.
“As a group we know that we can finish higher up the table than we did this time.
“Look at the way we played in that 12-game unbeaten run, that was promotion form.
“We don’t want to be a side which nearly does it, we want to be up there challenging.
“There are some big clubs in this division but we showed at times that we weren’t far off.
“We will get our rest in the summer and be ready to try again when we come back for pre-season training.”
Hughes was not the only Preston player for whom the Birmingham game was their last of the season.
Brad Potts limped out of it when a knee injury flared up again, the January recruit from Barnsley having missed the previous two games.
The midfielder proved to be a big loss and can boast of not having been on the losing side since signing.
North End found things difficult without Hughes at left-back.
Josh Earl and then Darnell Fisher played there but could not offer what an improving Hughes had done.
Two other players played their last games in March, wingers Tom Barkhuizen and Brandon Barker.
Barkhuizen damaged knee cartilage in training between the Bristol City and Bolton games and needed surgery.
As for Barker, he tore his hamstring soon after coming on as a substitute at Reading on March 30.
With that being his second hamstring injury during his loan spell and having had them previously, it was to count against him in terms of North End looking to bring him back to Deepdale.