I hesitated, I really did before putting fingers to keyboard and typing this piece. My aim was not to have a knee-**** reaction or appear negative but try to be realistic and manage expectations. So here goes.

We have come further than any of us expected in a much shorter time. Fifth in the Premiership with games in hand. A Cup final and still only two defeats all season in the league and we’re about to go into March.

The players have done magnificently and may well yet nail a Champions League place. If they do they will be heroes if they are not already. Eddie Howe and his coaching staff have been immense and in them we trust. But you can sense a but coming can’t you?

I think deep down we all know we need to raise the level if we are to take that next step. In this Cup Final we even perhaps outplayed Man. Utd in-between the 18-yard boxes. Inside them we were outplayed and that’s where it counts.

My take is this and I’m more than prepared to be shot down. Of those that started on Sunday I can only really see three of those being regular starters come next season. Only three I hear you say. Yes is my answer but that doesn’t mean I’d bin the others.

Just that they might have to be excellent squad members more than capable of coming in and doing a job when the starters aren’t available. Also I’m not talking about needing eight replacements either. I think we already have three.

I think Bruno, Big Joe and Sven are almost guaranteed starters for next season. I’d add Nick Pope, Isak and Anthony Gordon to that. If you pushed me hard I’d probably add Tripps for one more season as well although perhaps just.

Of the others, and read this carefully, I would keep Schar, Willock, Longstaff and Miggy. However I really think that Burn, Maxi and Wilson may have just about given us everything they can right now.

Wembley was stage-set for Maxi and whilst at times he was our most dangerous looking attacking option I’m really not sure he’s consistent enough nor a player that fits with Eddie’s ethics.

Burn has been excellent and would probably be happy to stay as a squad member and perhaps we should do that, but long-term he’s not the answer for me at left-back. Callum Wilson is somewhat of an enigma for me.

On his day he’s brilliant but have we, because of all those injuries, had his best days now? I don’t know but I do know that we can probably get younger, more reliable and just as good with the money we’ve got.

I’ve dealt with those that have pretty much been Plan A for Eddie all season. This is a plan that for me is just beginning to falter after a magnificent campaign. Plan B for me with those that come in hasn’t worked and won’t work although I might be wrong.

So, I finish as I start. Overreaction or reality check? I think the latter others may think the former and I’ll understand that. What is important is that we continue to build on what we’ve achieved so far and keep on pushing.

That probably means that there’s some big decisions ahead for Eddie and The Owners.

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