STEVE McClaren spoke of his pride after watching his Derby County team tackle one of the best sides in Europe.
A 2-0 defeat against Chelsea saw Derby slip out of the FA Cup at the third-round stage in front of 32,000 at the iPro Stadium.
“I could not be more proud of the players, and I’m sure the fans are as well,” McClaren said.
“We emphasised that in the dressing room after the game.
“We have played against one of the best teams not only in the Premier League, but in Europe.
“They have a front four which at times you cannot get near. We will not play against a front four as quick as that. They can hurt you in a second.
“Yet, we have dealt with it and competed against it, and played good football when we could.”
Chelsea struck twice in a five-minute spell in the second half to win the tie and set up a fourth-round clash against Stoke City.
John Obi Mikel headed the first and Oscar grabbed the second.
“That five-minute spell was the only disappointment of the afternoon,” McClaren said.
“It was great delivery from the free kick on the first goal but we were a little disappointed with the second.
“Overall, it was about the performance. We don’t have this kind of quality coming here every week in the Championship.
“As I said, we should feel proud not only of the 11 but of the squad.
“Apart from the result, I could not be more delighted.”
The tie was a sell-out and the atmosphere brought back memories for McClaren of when he was Derby’s first-team coach under Jim Smith during the club’s years in the Premiership in the late Nineties.
“It took me back to those days when the stadium was rocking. We want more of this,” McClaren added.
“The fans must have enjoyed not just our effort but the quality of the Chelsea team.
“It is what they want to see in the future.
“We want to be playing these kind of games, experiencing these kind of games every week.”