Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan believes there is a strong future ahead for the club after a marked improvement in fortunes towards the end of last season.
The 28-year-old began the term as second choice behind Shay Given before stepping up and starting 36 games as the Villans successfully battled against relegation.
And Guzan feels the club's younger stars will have only benefited from last season's experiences as they prepare for the new campaign.
“We had a tough spell but that was what made us stronger and helped to bring out our character” Guzan told the Birmingham Mail.
“When you go through those tough times you are able to help each other, pick each other up and dust each other down. You keep fighting.
“If you make mistakes it’s how you respond to the criticism that comes your way, you have to be man enough and move on. I think as a group and as a team we did a really good job of that and that will help us now in the future.”
Seven of the eight players who played in defence for Aston Villa last season were aged 24 or under, while the 28-year-old Ron Vlaar missed large portions of the term through injury.
"You need the help of defenders, and you need them to be brave because in England there are lots of balls coming into the box," Guzan added.
"I think they improved massively. The guys in front of me did a really good job coming into a situation that maybe wasn’t the easiest.
"For them to learn as they went along – some new guys, some younger faces that have learnt on the job – was a tough ask. But they just got on with it, and that’s a test of their mental strength and focus."