SAM Ricketts is adamant that relegation will not tear Wanderers apart.
The reality of life outside the top flight is starting to become apparent as Owen Coyle’s squad sheds a procession of high-earning stars.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Gretar Steinsson, Ivan Klasnic and Nigel Reo-Coker are all among the top names heading for the exit door as part of streamlining measures.
But Wales international Ricketts – who has pledged his future for another year – is convinced there will be enough left to launch an immediate tilt for promotion.
“This is a family club, we’re all together and that’s what makes it so special,” he said. “Of course it’s disappointing to be relegated and know that we were not quite good enough over the course of the season. But I’m a firm believer that if you can go away and evaluate what went wrong, which things clearly have, then you can come back stronger for it.
“The fans have been with us all the way, there is a togetherness, so it’s down to us as a club and players to take a good look at ourselves. That’s the attitude we’ve got to have now.”
Ricketts has only once previously suffered relegation, at Oxford United in the old Second Division in 2001. But the full-back is convinced he has the right character to avoid a hangover from this season’s disappointments when business gets back up and running next season.
“My career has been on an upward curve for the last eight years or so and this is the first knock back like this,” he said.
“It’s certainly not the first knockback in my career, I went down to non-league and came back stronger, and that’s my philosophy in life.
“It was the same when I got injured (he ruptured his Achilles last season and was out for 10 months). I said when I came back I wanted to be better, fitter and stronger than I was before and that’s the challenge.
“Football keeps moving forward so we need to keep evolving as players.”
Looking back at the wreckage of the campaign, Ricketts admits Wanderers never managed to recover from making their worst start to a season for more than a century.
Coyle’s side won just three of their first 16 games before recovering to give themselves a chance on the final day.
“Looking back over the season we’ve not been good enough,” said Ricketts, who only made his comeback from long-term injury in late December.
“We gave ourselves a huge mountain to climb. In the second half of the season our points tally has been decent, but it was the early part of the season where we let ourselves down and we never quite recovered.”