Martyn Waghorn says strength and character have been key to Derby County's progress this season.
The Rams missed out on a place in the Premier League as they lost 2-1 to Aston Villa at Wembley on Monday, with Waghorn claiming Derby's goal as he got a slight touch on Jack Marriott's shot as it made its way into the net.
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And, reflecting on the season as a whole, Waghorn feels there is plenty to be proud of.
He told RamsTV: "It's hugely disappointing to lose the game having got this far in a season where we've had our highs and lows. To come up short hurts a lot.
"But as a team we've come on so much. I'm so proud to play for this club and to be part of what we've done this year - what we've got as a team is something special and I thoroughly enjoy coming in to work day in, day out as it's fun and enjoyable and it's hard too but I've learned so much and I can't wait to get back and go one better next season.
"It's a play-off final and it's about whoever turns up. There wasn't much between the sides but we conceded at a bad time in the first-half which always sets you back.
"The strength and character this team has got has been phenomenal and we've come back from difficult positions this season but on this occasion we just ran out of time."
Waghorn feels he has benefited greatly as a player not only under the tutelage of manager Frank Lampard, but also from playing alongside players such as the club's loan signings Fikayo Tomori, Harry Wilson and Mason Mount.
He said: "The gaffer is a born leader and you know he wants to achieve as much as he can and he's instilled that in us from day one. When I first signed it was all about winning and getting promotion as well as me becoming a better player and better person and I feel like I've done that.
"The lads on loan have made a great contribution. Sometimes you get boys in on loan and they play a few games and are in and out of the team, but these lads have been absolutely incredible. I came in on same day as Fik and after a tough first game against Leeds he came on in leaps and bounds. Harry and Mounty, everyone knows what they're capable of and they're fantastic footballers.
"They're young kids but I've learned a lot from them in terms of the way they play the game and how they see the game and they've got big futures. I'm grateful to have played alongside them."
Waghorn also praised the club's fans for their support and stressed how disappointed he is that the players couldn't give them the dream of promotion.
He said: "It's sad for everyone at the club. You've seen the support today - I remember coming out for the warm-up and just getting hit by this white wave and it was incredible and something I'll never forget.
"The supporters have been there throughout, whether it's Tuesday night away at Stoke in the cold and wet to here at Wembley, and they've been fantastic.
"It's tough for them, we want to do this for them as much as anyone as they've had disappointment in the past. It's one of those things, we've got to go again and I know they'll be right behind the team and the gaffer and I think next year will be a good year. We just have to reflect, understand today was a disappointing day but take as many positives as we can from the season and go again."