Neil Warnock said he could not fault Cardiff City's players following their relegation from the Premier League, while acknowledging the setback was put into perspective by the tragic death of Emiliano Sala.
Cardiff agreed a deal with Nantes to make Sala their record signing in January, but the Argentinian striker was killed, at the age of 28, when a plane he was travelling in crashed in the English Channel, just two days on from his move to Wales being announced.
After a 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday ended Cardiff's hopes of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship, manager Warnock told a news conference: "We have missed a goalscorer. Someone asked me about Emiliano ... but I think that also puts things in perspective. We've got relegated. The lad lost his life."
Responding to further questioning about the devastating incident, Warnock added: "Obviously it was difficult. This was something completely out of the blue. I wish we could have had Emiliano with us because I think he would have scored 10 goals.
"But I can't fault the lads. They've given me everything and they've just come up short."
Warnock was unable to confirm whether he would stay with Cardiff next season, explaining he would hold talks with the club's hierarchy "in the next few weeks".
However, the 70-year-old added: "I will be working next year. I will have a year somewhere. I am looking forward to that challenge now. If I hadn't got the drive, I wouldn't do it, but I have got the drive."
A significant number of Cardiff fans stayed after the full-time whistle to offer warm applause to the Bluebirds' players and staff following their final home game of the campaign.
... thank you for all your support this season— Harry Arter (@HarryArter2) May 4, 2019
"I've never seen a relegated team get an ovation like that," said Warnock. "Daft as it sounds, it's probably my best job ever to do what I've done with this club. We've had to overcome so much, keeping a group like this together. I can't really be any prouder."
Palace boss Roy Hodgson was pleased with the efforts of his side as strikes from Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi and Andros Townsend outweighed a Martin Kelly own goal and Bobby Reid's late consolation.
Hodgson told a news conference: "Cardiff have fought very hard in every game throughout the season ... so we knew they'd be giving us nothing and we'd have to fight and work hard for every opportunity. We matched them and showed the necessary quality."