Motherwell do not need to break back into the top six next season to improve, according to coach Stephen Craigan.
Stephen Robinson’s men reached the finals of both domestic cup competitions and finished the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign in seventh.
Their bid for a top six spot only stalled with two games to go before the split but realistically they had been fighting a losing battle for a number of weeks considering the advantage Hearts held in terms of both points and goal difference.
Robinson wants his men to now build on their achievements next term but former Fir Park skipper Craigan admits replicating their success in the knockout tournaments will be tough.
And reclaiming a place in the top half will also be a tough ask too, according to the Northern Irishman.
That is why the Steelmen’s Under-20s boss believes just taking the fight for the top six to game 33 of the season would represent a step in the right direction.
He told Press Association Sport: “The manager got every ounce out of every player all season.
“Yes they had poor games at times and were disappointed with the Scottish Cup final, especially the first half, but every one of them was committed to the cause.
“If you had said at the end of last season you’d get to two cup finals and finish seventh, everyone would have taken that.
“The challenge now is to match that or even better it.
“The manager is not one for complacency. He won’t sit about and wait. The ball has started rolling already. We had a staff meeting on Tuesday to set out our aims, our targets and how we want to do it next year.
“Is top six the aim? Well, there will be a lot of clubs looking at it.
“But if you look at the big five clubs – Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts – that’s realistically the top five right there, so really you’re playing for just one place.
“Kilmarnock got that slot this year but Dundee will be better next year under Neil McCann, St Johnstone will be back strong again too, so it’s not just us.
“Being in the battle for top six will be the key for us. If we can take the fight even up to matchday 33 that would be progress. Staying in the fight a wee bit longer would be progress.
– Craigan was speaking at the SPFL Trust’s Annual Golf Day at The Carrick. All proceeds raised will be used towards mental health first aid training in Scottish football in partnership with the Chris Mitchell Foundation. For more information visit www.spfltrust.org.uk