With five games of the season to go the Vale were still in with a shout of promotion — but a run of defeats left them sitting in a miserable sixth position, with Blantyre Victoria, Vale of Clyde and Wishaw eventually clinching the promotion spots.

The Vale boss said: “The end of the season was tragic.

“To be in with a shout and have everything in your own hands is exactly what you want at that stage but the final run was just awful.

“It wasn’t like the boys struggled but we just didn’t get the results when we most needed them. Throughout the season we were losing games by one goal that we could probably have won by one on another day, but that’s just the way it goes.

“In such a short season, you can’t afford to lose many games and when push comes to shove you need to pick up as many points as you can — so if we are to mount a challenge again we will need to be consistent.” With the season now at the back of Hamill’s mind, he admitted that planning is already well underway for the upcoming campaign. As well as tying down the majority of last season’s squad Hamill has also snapped up two youngsters from the Vale’s under-21 ranks.

He added: “I don’t have any money to spend so looking at the youth teams is going to have to be the way forward for the time being.

“The club has recently started its own under-19 side and the aim is for the guys to progress from the 19s, through the 21s and into the first team.

“It is already paying dividends with James McDonald and Ross Willis joining up with us next season.

“Ross is left sided, can play at full back or left midfield — whilst James can pretty much play everywhere, so the pair will come in very handy next season.”