Birmingham City’s youngsters came of age this season.
And that can only stand them and the club in good stead for the next campaign.
Jordon Mutch, 20, and Nathan Redmond, 18, were regularly involved for Blues on all fronts – in the league, cups and Europe.
And Jack Butland’s loan to Cheltenham Town was invaluable for the 19-year-old as he gears up to make a pitch for Blues goalkeeping jersey in 2012-13.
Eddy Gnahore, of whom big things are expected, made his debut as a substitute in the FA Cup at Sheffield United.
Unfortunately, the 18-year-old then suffered a serious knee ligament injury in training which will keep him out until well into the next season.
For Mutch, this season was always going to be an important one.
Having had spells away from Blues on loan, notably to Watford, to gain experience, he was primed and raring to go when Blues reported back. And in pre-season he was arguably one of Blues’ best performers.
His drive and energy brought a real zest to the engine room.
Mutch started the season by right and was then cruelly struck down in training after just two games. He has had injury setbacks before, but this was just what he didn’t need and, after recovering from a broken ankle, he took a while to recover sharpness.
But towards the end of the season he made a significant contribution to Blues securing a play-off berth.
His first goal in Blues colours was a peach: an on-the-run sidefooter into the top corner at Burnley in April that effectively won a game that was slipping away from Chris Hughton’s men.
As the play-off semi-finals neared, with Keith Fahey injured and ruled out and Guirane N’Daw not fully fit either, there was a lot of responsibility on Mutch’s shoulders.
He himself had been carrying a niggle going into the Blackpool games and his passing accuracy wasn’t at its best.
Blackpool, who outnumbered Blues in the central areas, by and large controlled midfield with old boy Barry Ferguson at his wily best.
Mutch will become a better player in the future for what he went through in the play-offs. It will only make him stronger, wiser and more determined.
Redmond’s impact was stunning. Blues second youngest player ever –he took that accolade from Mutch – his cameo appearances as substitute, particularly in the Europa League, made everyone take notice.
He was not a regular due to Chris Burke and Jean Beausejour holding sway on the flanks (until the latter was sold in January) and Hughton deliberately used him carefully, dipping him in and out of the mix.
Redmond did find it tough when he started away games, but the talent and potential to improve was there for all to see.
Hughton opted to use him behind lone striker Marlon King in the first leg of the semi-final at Blackpool and Redmond looked lost and didn’t get into the game. Again, it was part of a sharp learning curve and the memory should benefit him in the future.
Butland, who was on the bench for the last five matches because of injury to Boaz Myhill, has made it clear that he is gunning to be Blues’ No.1 goalkeeper next season.
Called up as stand-by for England’s Euro 2012 squad, he impressed at Cheltenham but also had some sticky moments, which he perhaps needed to experience away from St Andrew’s and Championship glare.
Like Mutch and Redmond, Butland now has had a full season of matches that matter under his belt.
All three will be battle-hardened next season and poised to kick on.
And for them all, there’s no better place to continue to progress than St Andrew’s, where they will be involved and relied upon.