Philippe Clement has spoken to the media after the win over Sparta Prague. Here is everything he had to say.

What did you make of the performance?

Of course I’m really happy to get three points because I know how good a team Sparta Prague is, with a good coach. We started the game with a lot of intensity and good pressing, good aggression without the ball. I think it was a well deserved 2-0 lead. We missed chances for 3-0, which makes a big difference because it kills the belief then. That was the only thing we missed today. Second half, we kept control of the game – not too many chances against even if we didn’t have the control of the first half. At the end, we finished the game in a mature way. Okay, we got a goal against but that’s also the quality of Sparta. 

Is that the best you have seen from your side since you arrived?

Yes, because if you see the strength of the opponent also. I think this is the best team we have played against so far, in Prague also of course. The first half was really good. I want to see that football in 90 minutes, that’s the goal. But I know you cannot do that in a few weeks from the situation we were in. You need more time for that, to get everyone at the really top physical level also to do all that intensity and high speeds with and without the ball. It’s very important that the guys who came in during the second half gave good energy to the team, guys who come out of injury like Tom Lawrence for example. 

How confident are you of progressing from the group?

If there’s one thing I don‘t want it’s that players now think we’ve qualified. So, we made a really important step forward, that’s true. But we don’t have anything in our hands for the moment. It’s now confirmation in this game to get our points against Aris or in the game against Betis. We still have two games to go. So, it’s about focus, concentration to try to get three points from every game. We know that football is a game you don’t always get what you deserve or there can be circumstances that go against you. So we need to be top every time

What did you learn about your side?

They did it in a mature way. In a lot of situations making the right decisions as a team, so that’s good, that’s good for me. It was not everything perfect, but most of the things they were. So they didn’t become too nervous after 2-1. But forget, we have experienced guys on the pitch, with Jack, with Tav, with Lunny, with Connor, with Ryan also. They take the lead in those things and it’s really crucial for the coach to have players  like that on the pitch who can be your right hand in those circumstances.

How pleased are you with the bond between the players and the fans?

It’s maybe the most satisfaction thing of this evening and it’s crucial. When it was not the case maybe we would not have had the energy to fight until the end or make the decisive tackle or decisive block. So, like I said two, three weeks ago, it’s a big strength of this club and I’m really happy that in a short time this energy is back. That the players feel it, the fans feel it and the story together is so much stronger. I’m looking forward to a lot of evenings like this next weeks, months, a year.

How big a figure is Jack Butland on and off the park?

Like I said about the five guys, I need to speak about some others also. I am also proud of a young guy like Ross and the way he came in. It is also important for him to come out of the academy. But Jack is very important in the dressing room. For me it is really difficult to take out certain players. I know for you guys it is more interesting because then you can make one story about this guy. But I think the strongest thing for the moment is that this team is hungry to learn, they are very focused in every meeting, every training, on what we ask them to do. They are really focused on their own task and what they have to do on the pitch together. Like this, they are growing really fast. I am going to push that to continue and we are going to go on with the guys who give the focus and the concentration and hunger also. I don’t want that they get in a situation where they get satisfied or think this is easy or normal. I will remind them how difficult it was a few weeks ago.

How impressed are you with the way the team is now pressing?

A lot of things were better again, The players are taking steps and also the players who come on - it’s important that they don’t step on the pitch thinking: ‘I need to make a difference by scoring or having an assist’. They have to keep on doing the work. If they press higher up the pitch, it keeps the opponent further from our goal and makes it more difficult for them to score a goal or to get chances. It’s a very important thing in the way we want to play football. It’s all about concentration and physical levels. Every player can do that - press - if they really want to do it and it’s our job to see that everybody does it.

Were you annoyed about Connor Goldson’s yellow card?

It was first an offside. I think it’s a stupid rule to wait that long, not only for this situation but also for injuries if you continue playing when you have the risk of a collision or some stupid things. I don’t work for UEFA or FIFA to change the rules, but for me if it is clearly offside the linesman needs to show because stupid things can happen like the yellow card for Connor. It is what it is. I am not someone who keeps thinking about a problem if I can’t do anything about it. He will be suspended and it will be a chance for other players to prove themselves.