Micky Mellon has given Dundee United pass marks on their Premiership return – but admits they face a stiffer examination next term.
The Tannadice team came up short in their quest for a top-six slot on their first year back in the Scottish top flight.
But they could yet squeeze home in seventh place if they finish off their campaign with a win away to St Mirren and Motherwell slip up against Ross County.
That would be a satisfactory result for Mellon, who had just three weeks to get to grips with his new squad last summer after being appointed as Robbie Neilson’s successor.
But with Neilson’s Championship-winning Hearts now set to rejoin the big guns next term, Mellon admits the level of competition will undoubtedly go up another level.
Looking back on the campaign, he said: “You always want more but the objective was always to keep us in the Premiership and introduce young players into the group when they were ready.
“It’s all been about making sure we become a consistent Premiership club again.
“Considering we missed out on the top six by a point and were a game away from the Scottish Cup final, then I’d say it was a satisfying season.
“We have to keep striving for more but if I’m being fair to my players, I have to say it’s been a great first season back in the Premiership.
“But it’s going to be tougher again next year.
“What everybody has to understand is that the Old Firm will spend again. Aberdeen are spending already. They’ve brought Declan Gallagher in who will cost them.
“Hearts are coming back up, Hibs will strengthen too – but we can’t spend the kind of money that these teams will.
“So we will have to find another way to bridge that gap.
“That will be done by having a committed bunch of boys with brilliant team spirit and by growing the young boys we have within the building into players who can make an impact at this level.
“We’ll also have a look around to see if there is anyone up here or in England that we can afford who can make us better.
“But we won’t be able to compete with the teams financially. I don’t think that’s news to anyone. We will have to do it a different way but we’ll take that challenge on.”