As one of the “toughest” seasons comes to a close, Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton is stepping up preparations for a busy summer.
It is a campaign which has not panned out as expected for the Reds, with much of it spent scrapping towards the bottom of the table.
But the aim is to be challenging at the opposite end of the Championship next term.
To do that, Hughton needs to strengthen during the transfer window, having already identified bringing in attacking resources as a priority.
Loans coming to an end, contracts expiring and loanees returning means there will automatically be a significant turnover of players.
The manager has already said he has as good as made up his mind about what will happen to those currently on the books whose futures are in doubt.
The next challenge is to get the recruitment right.
“It will be a busy summer,” said Hughton.
“There are two things, one is how much business we do – that you never know. But it will be busy, because that’s normal and we are looking to bring players in.
“We have been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks looking at players, looking at videos, seeing who’s available, who might be available and who might be available on loan.”
Forest secured their safety with two games to spare, and will be looking to break a run of three straight draws when they host Preston North End in their final fixture on Saturday.
Hughton says it has been a particularly competitive Championship campaign, with the lack of crowds acting as a leveller.
“It’s the toughest league, and this season more than any other,” he said.
“You’ve got the likes of Wycombe, who are bottom of the league and have the smallest budget, but have performed in the way they have and are still capable of winning games.
“The three teams who came down are the three best teams. Norwich and Watford have already gone up, whether Bournemouth will as well, I don’t know, but I think they are the three best teams.
“I must admit, there isn’t a great gulf between a big group of teams. The difference has been at both ends, when you’ve got (Teemu) Pukki getting the amount of goals he’s got for Norwich and the amount (Ivan) Toney has got for Brentford.
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“They are the things which make the difference.
“The Premier League is the best league. If you are one of the teams with a lesser budget, then you know how tough the Premier League is – it can be unforgiving.
“But if I look at week in, week out, with the amount of games you play, the Championship is tough.
“I can honestly say, in all my time here so far, we haven’t had a really comfortable game. Even the games we’ve won and looked like we were going to win, you’re still fighting and shouting with 10 minutes to go.
“From a competitive point of view, if I look at the whole league, I think it is the most competitive.”
It has been more than a year since supporters were last allowed into the City Ground.
Hughton has yet to walk out in front of a home crowd, something which will hopefully change at the start of next term.
“It’s been the toughest season because of not having any supporters. That balances everything up,” he added.
“A Wycombe can go away from home and get the type of surprise result they may not have done otherwise.
“Everybody has been in the same boat, so it’s been hard for everybody.
“I haven’t managed in front of a home crowd, and I know what the City Ground crowd can be like.”
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