DIARY OF A SEASON.
Ben Foster- A good season
I was very grateful this week to catch up with Club captain Chris Brunt, who graciously gave us a unique insight to yet another outstanding Premier-ship campaign, by the men from the Hawthorns.
“Yet another season has come and gone, and another hugely successful one.” I suggested to Chris.
“Yes it’s been a long hard season, but as you say a successful one. But Having said that, it wouldn’t be West Brom without making it hard for ourselves at times. But if you look back on it, I think its fair to say we have been pretty comfortable all season. We’ve had a few good results in ‘there’ and a few really memorable ones for the supporters. Especially the Wolves result.”
Billy Jones-Has really impressed his captain
“I couldn’t agree more Chris, but on the downside we lost a few games that we maybe shouldn’t have didn’t we. Although I suppose they were pretty predictable reverses. I’m speaking of course about the likes of Stoke and Wigan at the Hawthorns. As a player it must be frustrating. How can you your finger on results like that.”
Chris Brunt-Ball control
“I don’t really know if I’m honest. Our home form has been a bit of a mystery all season really. We picked up a few good results as well, but I’m not really sure what the problem was. It wasn’t as if we were doing anything different to what we are now. It was just things didn’t seem to be falling our way at home. We were picking up some good points away from home, which I suppose made it a little bit less concerning. But as you say we have had our fair share of bad results during the season, and as you say most of them have come at home, which was a little bit unfortunate, because most of the season I feel we have had good form both home and away. Obviously your home games, are the ones you mark down as the ones you want to pick points up from, but it hasn’t really been the case for us this season, apart from recently.”
“But as you say we have picked up some great wins away from home, where our form at times has been amazing.”
Chris Brunt Celerates another goal.
“Yeah, I think it was down to the way we were playing away from home, and the players we had available to us, that it suited us better playing away from home. Obviously we’ve had great results away, the two games in the week leading up to Christmas, at Newcastle and Blackburn, were great wins, and away to Stoke as well, where I’m very aware the club hadn’t won for many years. But ever since Roy Hodgson took over we have had results like that.
Chris congratulates Peter Odemwingie after the Liverpool winner
Obviously away to Liverpool towards the end of the season as well, where the club hadn’t won for forty five years or so, it just seems to me that we are overturning these things with him as manager, which is very pleasing and great to be involved in.”
“That definitely seems to be the case Chris, certainly history has been let’s just say re-addressed shall we. You have just mentioned the away game at Liverpool the other week. A great result as you say, and I recall we spoke about the corresponding game last season, where you were bitterly disappointed that we didn’t get anything out of the match and suffered that 1-0 defeat.
Then of course we again turn history on it’s head, with Peter grabbing the winner. Another amazing result. And in the end well deserved.”
Heads up at Anfield against Liverpool
“Yes definitely. Once Peter grabbed that goal to put us ahead, I felt it was always going to be our day. Especially with the chances they had and the defending we had to do as a team. We just had that confidence, where we knew we were good enough defensively to keep the other team out. Which was definitely something we haven’t had, since I came to the club, anyway.”
“Was that down to the manager (Roy Hodgson) and his influence.” I asked the Albion skipper.
“Yes definitely. It’s down to the way he sets us out, the way he sets his teams out, and the coaching he does on the training ground during the week. We all know what we need to do, even when we don’t have the ball. Obviously when you do have the ball, you are looking for a little bit of improvisation from somebody, an individual player to do something special. But when we are defending as a team, we all know our jobs. In fact we all know each ‘others’ jobs.
Marco Fortune-Wonderful attitude
That’s the way Roy sets us out. When someone else gets caught out, we can cover for each other and that’s what he expects us to do. That’s probably the best way of looking at it really, we all sort of cover each other when we don’t have the ball. It’s definitely paid off, because for a team that couldn’t keep a clean sheet last season, I think we have about ten this season, so that is a massive improvement, which is pretty good isn’t it.”
“Absolutely. I’m now going to ask a silly question, but I’m going to ask it anyway”.(Reflecting on Roy Hodgson’s departure to manage England). “What is it going to be like to lose Roy? As captain you’re going to have to ‘break’ another manager in. How are you preparing yourself for that task?”
Marco Fortune and Peter Odemwingie enjoy the moment
“Yes, you’re right. It’s going to be difficult. The club have definately got a big job on their hands replacing Roy. The strides forward we’ve made as a club over the past fifteen months, since he has been here, has been great. As a player, and the fans, you know your clubs in good hands. Not having to think every season, will we be going up? Or will we be going down? Will we be coming back up again? Will we be in the Championship or the Premier League? Without doubt that has come from Roy, and the confidence he has generated.
Roy Hodgson ays his goodbyes to the fans at Bolton
Even during this season when we were struggling a little bit for a couple of months, he always had the confidence in us that we were going to get a steady mid-table finish, and that is the way it has ‘panned’ out.”
“He certainly seems to generate a great deal of enthusiasm doesn’t he.”
“Yes of course he does. He is a very experienced man. He has seen and done it all before. Especially with a club like ‘ours’. He also did the same at Fulham a few years ago, so he has got good experience in that department. Obviously everyone respects him for the job he has done in football. If you are listening to him talking, you can only learn. You can really only learn about the game, because he has been there and done it all before.”
“As captain do you feel you have benefited from his guidance? I think it’s fair to say you have had a pretty good season, apart from the injury you picked up on New Years day against Everton, which must have been a set-back for you.”
Shane Long - A great acquisition
“Yes, I’ve really enjoyed the season. Obviously over the couple of months when we weren’t playing so well and obviously we weren’t getting the results, you look to yourself first and foremost, and I think everyone’s the same. But at the end of the day, as I said before, Roy coaches you to do jobs for the team, and on a Saturday all eleven of us go out there and do those jobs.
Obviously the boys that score the goals, and the likes of Ben, in goal, Jonas and Gareth McAuley, have won a lot of plaudits for the work they have done at both ends of the pitch. But I think as mid-fielders we have worked a lot harder for the team than a lot of people think. I know I didn’t get as many goals this season, than I would have liked.
But I think that is down to a lot of the other responsibilities I have got in the team as well. It’s not just about getting forward, and helping the attack. I think my game has developed a lot more around the defensive side as well, which proves that you are never too old to learn. That’s certainly where the manager comes in, because I think that side of my game has massively improved.”
Shane Long scores on debu against Manchester United
“Yes I absolutely agree. I think some of your critics want to watch the amount of work you get through in a game. I think it’s fair to say that your work-rate in defensive positions, equals the amount of work you do in attack. For me, that is of great credit to you Chris.”
The skipper gets a lot of the ball!
“At the end of the day, I’m sent out to do a job for the team, and that means both ways, defence and attack. It doesn’t mean standing on the half way line waiting to get the ball back. Obviously if we could get away with that we wouldn’t have to do it.
I think that’s what has put us in this position this season, that other side of the game that a lot of other teams don’t want to do. We ‘muck-in’ every week and do a job, which I think we have got the benefits from. We have won games and got points.
Maybe we are not as pleasing on the eye this season as we maybe were a couple of seasons back, but we are certainly a lot more efficient, and it’s all about staying in the Premier League, and letting the supporters see the best teams.”
The skipper shares a joke with an official
“You suggest that we aren’t as attractive a side as we were a few seasons ago Chris, but I have to say last Sunday at Bolton, we played some excellent football, and how we were two goals down at one stage was beyond me. We ‘foot-balled’ Bolton off the park, only to go behind to a dubious penalty and bizzare own goal. That must have been frustrating for the players, it certainly was for the fans.”
“Yes I think you’re right Laurie. For me thats the best we have played for a while. We moved the ball around well. But you know it’s difficult, because in a lot of these games we are playing against teams who are fighting for their lives, and you have to appreciate how difficult it is to play against those sides. At the end of the day we were in that position last year, and look at some of the results that we had. You have only got to look at that last season and Wigan this season.
When the pressure is on, you just come up with it, and it’s difficult to play against those teams, especially when you consider that from four or five games to go, we were reasonably safe.”
“Nice to see James Morrison back after injury and a cracking goal on Sunday against Bolton.”
Total Concentration from the skipper.
“Yes, James has had a good season, and I feel he has been one of our better players. His injury was a bit of a strange one against Newcastle. But it’s nice to see him back and to see him get his goal as well. As you say Laurie, in that game, we were far the better team.”
“You say James’s injury was a strange one, but it was not dis-similar to the injury you picked up on New Years day against Everton was it?”
“Yes, it was pretty ‘freak’ one to be fair. I think I said at the time, I hadn’t had a lot of injuries during my career and I was probably due one. I’ve played a lot of football. The three seasons before I joined West Brom, I played nearly fifty games a season, so I have definately played a lot of football, and I think maybe it’s catching up on me. (ha ha ha). I think that is probably what happened. Obviously it wasn’t nice to miss games, and I missed some big games as well, Stoke away and the Wolves and Sunderland wins, but it wasn’t as frustrating as I had imagined it was going to be. The medical staff were good, and they broke it up quite well for me between the injury and getting back, which was nice, and the time went a lot quicker than I expected to be honest.”
“You mentioned the backroom staff Chris. It does seem to be a ‘happy camp’ at the Albion now. Is that the case?”
“Yes, definitely. We are getting results, and for a club of our size, we are pretty successful. Also, when we do have bad results people aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and it is certainly as honest a group of players as we have had. Especially when you consider that we are not ‘big-hitters’ and do not spend twenty million pounds or so on one of the best players in the world. You have got to have that honesty. The gaffer has come in and has helped to build that. He has added a few players and that has helped as well, and that’s basically what has given us our success this season I think.”
“You mentioned the new players Chris. For me Shane Long has been a ‘snip’ for what we paid for him at the beginning of the season. I know he has also suffered from a niggling injury or two this season, but when he does play his work rate is prolific, and he is thorn in the side to any defence. He must be a nightmare to play against.”
“Shane is that sort of player, that to be fair you wouldn’t want to play against. I know he was signed as a striker, but you watch his work-rate on the ball, I actually think he is one of our best defenders. The gaffer is always going on about defending from the front, and he is someone who does just that. As you say, he has had a couple of injuries this season and it has been a bit unfortunate for him. But, with him, Peter and Marco, who came back after being out on loan, and he has been absolutely brilliant. With Coxy there as well, I know he hasn’t had too many opportunities this season, but there is a lot of competition for places up front just now. They have all been good again this season.”
“Marco Fortune is a transformed player since his loan spell at Doncaster isn’t he?”
“Yeah, but to be fair, even before he went out on loan, he worked hard in training every day, and did all that was asked of him. When he came back, the gaffer put him straight back in, and that was probably one of the turning points in our season, and he hasn’t looked back since.”
“You’ve mentioned the other players that I wanted to talk about, Ben Foster, an amazing keeper, Gareth McAuley, Keith Andrews and Billy Jones, all great acquisitions by Roy.”
“Yeah, absolutely. The two lads brought in on ‘frees’ Billy and Gareth, were great signings. Obviously I have known Gareth for a long time through Northern Ireland, but Billy has massively impressed me this season. He has looked really good.”
“Yes, he has fitted in nicely at right back, and a great replacement after losing Reidy for the rest of the season.”
“Yes he has. Billy has been brilliant. He has never played at this level before and of course he wants to prove himself, and show what he can do. I think he is doing that.”
“He must have been ‘sick’ with the own goal at Bolton on Sunday?”
“Yeah (ha ha ha), but there wasn’t much he could do with it was there. I don’t think he knew anything about it. Ironically he had a couple of chances to score in the two previous games, and then when he gets his goal, it’s an own goal!”
“A ‘great’ goal for you against Bolton, as well Chris. It was a cracker, and I think you hit that as cleanly as you have hit a ball for a long time.”
“It’s about time, it was long over due to be fair. As well, it was nice time to get it, because it swung the game back in our favour, and helped us get something out of a game we had dominated. As I said before, I haven’t scored as many goals as I would have liked this season, but so-be-it. At the end of the day, where we are going to finish in the league is more important than anything I do, or anyone else does. That probably sums it up really.”
“Finally Chris, where do we go from here? What are you final reflections on the future at Albion, after Roy?”
“Well obviously the club have got to appoint the right manager first and foremost, especially if we want to go that one step higher. Who that will be, we will have to wait and see. Obviously it is going to be a difficult decision for the club, but if we want to improve, the right man has to be appointed, but thankfully that’s not my department. But, it is fair to say that each season you want to improve, and it looks as if we are going to improve on last season. That’s all you can ask really. For us to improve next season we are going to have to sign some players. No disrespect to any of the players at the club now, but you must always be looking to sign new quality players. That’s the only way to move forward.”
“OK Chris. Thanks for the interview. Thanks for another great season. You have been splendid ambassador for West Bromwich Albion Football Club. Have a good summer pal.”
“Thanks Lol, you to.”
The Former Players Association would like to thank club captain Chris Brunt, for his time and of course insight into the past season. We wish all players and staff a well earned rest during the summer, and look forward to seeing them all at the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
Chris Brunt/Laurie Rampling – May 2012