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Rafa: "It's important to move forward & also for the fans"

"Signing the players that we signed - especially Schar. Schar is a player who has quality on the ball so he has more freedom to go forward and play from the back. Lascelles in the middle was strong and could be good in the air. Dummett on the left side, he's quite clever. He was the one who could play as a left full-back to cover Ritchie when he was going forward, or he could play from the back. For these three players it was really good. Yedlin who is really quick and Ritchie who has a lot of energy were giving us the width. When we signed Almiron, he and Ayoze and Rondon linked really well. Almiron could run behind defenders, Ayoze could run behind defenders and also go inside. So we have the width and the players that could go behind. We have the balance in defence. Dubravka was a great signing because he made a difference from day one when we beat Manchester United. The two midfielders - one that could pass the ball and one that could tackle and could keep position - we found the balance. In the second part of the league we were seventh. We did really well and the commitment of the players was there. I think the fans they accept that and accept the commitment of everyone that was there.

"If I was guilty of anything, it was to work really hard and to have some ambition. We gave the fans hope that we could go forward and improve that. I'm really pleased they are doing well and I'm really pleased for Steve Bruce because he's doing a great job. When you are watching the table, we finished 10th and 13th and you are expecting the next step to do the right things and be in the top ten. But it was not the idea and it's fine. The fans, the staff, the players - everybody was pushing. Everybody was trying to do what I said when I decided to stay in the Championship. It's a massive club and has the potential. Obviously you can't explain everything that happened in three and a half years. For me, it's important to move forward and also for the fans. I'm really pleased they are doing well, I'm really pleased for Steve Bruce, for the fans and everyone involved.

"I am quite lucky because I have very good relationships with Liverpool fans, Valencia fans, Napoli fans the same, Newcastle United fans the same. For a manager, when you got to four or five clubs and do really well, you keep the relationship with the board and the fans. You have a commitment not just with the players and the club, but also with the city. I can go to Valencia and it will be very difficult for me to walk in the street because they will be asking for autographs all the time. It's the same in Napoli. Liverpool, I come here by train and always find a Liverpool fan. In China, you have Newcastle United fans, Liverpool fans and Valencia fans. For you as a manager, you are really proud of that."

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