Heartbroken Owls defender Tom Lees admits their Championship Play-Off final loss to Hull City left him with the “worst feeling” in his footballing life.
Lees was holding back the tears at the end of Saturday’s heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to the Tigers at Wembley.
Mohamed Diame’s 72nd minute strike proved decisive as Wednesday missed out on promotion to the Premier League and a big financial pay-day.
“The feeling in the dressing room is just horrendous,” he said. “It is the worst feeling I’ve ever felt in football by a million miles.
“It is by far the hardest moment in my football career and it’s going to be horrible now for the summer.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but when you get this close it is hard to look at it like that. We had the chance to go up and we are all devastated. I’m so upset.”
Over 40,000 Owls fans travelled south and Lees wishes the team could have sent them home happy.
“I’ve never felt so bad lying there on the pitch; when you look up and see everyone it is horrendous,” he said. “The support at the end was amazing and we lost and that makes it almost harder.”
The centre-back felt there was little to choose between the two sides.
“It was a tight game,” he claimed. “They had a few chances.
“We were both a bit tentative. They scored from distance. A little bit of quality won the game.
“We didn’t create too much. We never really looked like scoring and it is disappointing at the end when you see all the fans here and how good they are.”
The former Leeds United player has challenged the team to learn from this painful experience.
Lees said: “We’ve got to use this as motivation. We’ve got to get over it together and come back stronger but that feels like a long way off at the moment.
“It’s going to be a lot tougher next year so we’ve got to improve. We weren’t good enough to go up and the league will be better.
“We will have to see where the manager thinks we need to improve and come back ready to go again next year.”
Head coach Carlos Carvalhal has ruled out any of his top performers leaving Hillsborough this summer.
“The chairman has told me he doesn’t want to sell players,” he stressed. “We don’t need a revolution, but we will try to improve the team. We know all of our players well and which positions we need one or two.”