IF Darryl Westlake is correct, then Sheffield United are in perfect shape to grab League One by the throat next season.
The full-back, who completed what he described as a “dream” move to South Yorkshire earlier this summer, feared he would encounter a squad wracked by disappointment and doubt after reporting for duty at Bramall Lane.
But instead Westlake has never heard the words “play,” “off” or “final” uttered once since joining Danny Wilson’s side.
May’s defeat in the League One showpiece is now, according to the 21-year-old, nothing but a distant memory behind the walls of United’s Shirecliffe training complex.
“Nobody had ever brought it up. Not even once,” Westlake said. “And that, for me, tells you something about the mood the team here is in.
“As far as they are concerned that’s been and gone now. They are looking ahead.
“The fact I’ve never had a conversation about it has surprised me. I honestly thought I would but I’m really pleased I haven’t and that says a lot about the rest of the lads’ state of mind.”
Westlake put pen to paper on a two-year contract with an option for a third after deciding to sever his ties with Walsall.
Regarded by Wilson, the United manager, as a hugely promising prospect, he will battle it out with fellow new face Tony McMahon for the vacant right-back role.
Westlake’s deal mirrors the one Shaun Miller, aged 24, signed after arriving from Crewe Alexandra and reflects United’s decision to focus their recruitment drive on players with potential rather than tried, tested and inevitably expensive names.
Although he became a free agent when his previous terms expired, Walsall received an undisclosed sum in compensation from United as per Football League regulations.
“I’m really excited about coming to United,” said Westlake, who has been given the number two shirt following Matthew Lowton’s move to Premier League outfit Aston Villa. “It can only help to improve me as a player.
“I know the expectation levels are going to be much higher here because we are expected to be challenging at the top of the table rather than simply staying up.
“But, that’s something I’m actually looking forward to. Coping with that type of pressure. I’m going to be using it as a positive force.
“Let’s be honest, if you want to achieve anything in this game then you’ve got to be able to do that.”