Dean Smith may have quashed talk of promotion as a target for next season – but he could not hide his excitement over the emerging talent at a buoyant Brentford.
The Bees stopped a revitalised Derby under Gary Rowett dead in their tracks as Lasse Vibe and the wonderful Jota scored doubles in a dominant display.
Smith plucked two other impressive performers, Romaine Sawyers and Rico Henry, from League One and his old club Walsall over the summer.
And the Bees boss admits many of his players are just starting to scratch the surface of their potential as they adjust to life in the second tier.
"It's a very tough league to get out of. You only have to look at some of the teams who won't go up this season, there will be some big ones," said Smith, whose side are on target for a top-ten finish after their fourth win in five outings.
"We're a young group and we're emerging. We've got the likes of Daniel Bentley, Romaine Sawyers and Rico Henry – those three guys haven't played in the Championship before.
"The squad has got better – we've got some depth there. I can look over my shoulder in the dug-out and know I can affect the game."
Vibe collected Jota’s shot before steering home to give dominant Brentford a deserved lead on the half-hour.
Only some fine goalkeeping by Scott Carson stopped the scoreline from being even more one-sided but Jota helped open the floodgates 20 minutes from time.
His low strike was followed by Vibe’s second, a shot from outside the area, and Jota had the last word after beating Richard Keogh and smashing home.
But Rowett kept things in perspective after watching the Rams’ three-game winning streak come to an abrupt end.
"After three wins and a draw it's easy to brush over one or two things,” he said. “This loss makes it easier to look at things going forward.
“We got a little more quality on the ball for 20 minutes after the break and got in some decent positions without ever really creating much.
“We got done on the counter and then we gave up the ghost a little bit. We stopped working and that was the bit I didn't like and I told the players so.”