Roberto De Zerbi spoke of his ‘incredible pride’ after leading Albion to Europa League.
A brilliant long-range goal from Julio Enciso earned the Seagulls a 1-1 draw with champions Manchester City at the Amex to secure sixth place with a game to go.
De Zerbi led the players in another exuberant lap of honour after the full-time whistle in front of supporters who can look forward to European football for the first time.
He said, “We didn’t receive a gift of the one point, we deserved the result. I am really proud, because I think this one of the best games of the season. It was very tough, but we played with incredible quality and courage.
“The improvement of the players has been fantastic and for me it’s very satisfying. We had to respect ourselves, the club and our fans and show the courage and that we believe in ourselves to win against the best team in the world. I think we did that.”
De Zerbi was asked when he thought Albion could qualify for Europe. “At the beginning I didn’t put my focus on the target of the Europa League. I had to analyse the players, learn about the Premier League and to understand the new country," he added.
“But step by step I started to think about our potential and in February it was clear in my head that we could fight for a big target.
The coaches work on tactics, strategy and mentality but first of all there is the passion and energy. In the last part of the season I watched the players not only give their best but more. Without it we couldn’t achieve this target – we deserve to play in the Europa League.”