Paul Lambert is confident Stoke City are well placed to bounce straight back into the Premier League after their relegation was confirmed on an emotional day at bet365 Stadium.
Stoke’s 10-year stay in England’s top flight will end after they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s first-half free-kick had provided hope of a great escape, but goals from James McArthur and Patrick van Aanholt inside the final 22 minutes sealed their fate after a miserable season that saw Lambert replace the sacked Mark Hughes as manager in January.
“It’s difficult to sum up my emotions because it’s not long after the game and your emotions are up and down but I can’t have asked for more effort,” Lambert said to BBC Sport.
“They’ve gave us everything in the last 15 games. I wish I wasn’t here because that would mean they’d be in a far better and more stable position.
“But the story of the 15 games I’ve been here for has been exceptional effort and commitment. The club is in a good position to rebuild and either way they had to rebuild.
“We lacked a bit more quality at the top end of the pitch. If the lads had been playing the way the did for me all season they probably wouldn’t be in this position.
“I love it here it’s brilliant. It’s probably not too dissimilar to Glasgow where I’m from; a hard-working place and we have to bounce back up now. The club is too big not to and it’s got the right infrastructure in place to do it.”
Lambert added: “It is a tough afternoon. I am feeling for everyone connected with the club. The supporters have backed us to the hilt and I feel it for them. Even after the game they waited to cheer us on.
“The season starts in July and August. When teams don’t get results you can be sleep-walking into positions you don’t want to be in. We never had enough. Since I came in the lads have given everything but we came up short. It is a chance to rebuild.”
Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, lauded his side after they made certain of survival, while offering his sympathy to Stoke.
“After seven games, or after 11 games with four points, I never saw it coming,” Hodgson told BBC Sport of his side’s recovery from a dreadful start under Frank de Boer.
“I was hoping it would be a low-scoring year in terms of points for the lower sides and we’d just scrape over the line.
“To get over 40 points is good. I’ve been celebrating with a small C all week because I couldn’t see us getting caught even though we weren’t totally safe mathematically.
“I’m proud of the team not just today but all season but I feel a lot of sympathy and empathy for Stoke.
“Any joy I feel is measured by looking at the faces of the Stoke players who gave everything, but I don’t think they could have done anymore, they came up against a team who weren’t willing to lie down, who put in a top, top performance.
“Paul Lambert’s come and have a drink with us, but it’s a hard one because you don’t know what to say.”