West Bromwich Albion vice-captain Kyle Bartley has said manager Valerien Ismael has given the Baggies the ‘confidence and belief’ to go on and win promotion back to the Premier League this term, speaking to the Express and Star.
The West Midlands side emerged as one of the favourites to go up at the start of the campaign, retaining England international Sam Johnstone and making several shrewd signings including former Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt, despite cashing in on former star Matheus Pereira who made the move to Al-Hilal last month.
Their managerial appointment of Ismael also put them in pole position to win a spot back to in the top flight of English football, with the 45-year-old elevating former side Barnsley from 21st to fifth during the 2020/21 campaign after succeeding Gerhard Struber at Oakwell with his clearly-defined system and ability to get the very best out of his players.
Are these 22 West Brom stats real or fake?
He took over a side that finished 19th in the Premier League back in May, although the Baggies opted not to splash out on players despite their superior financial strength over many others in the Championship.
They started this campaign well, winning 13 points from a possible 15 in their opening five league games and only dropping points away at fellow promotion chasers AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, but have struggled in the final third since the international break, drawing all three of their games in September, scoring just twice in these matches and allowing the Cherries to overtake them in the table.
Love the EFL? Want to share your opinions about your club? Get involved by subscribing to FLW TV on Youtube HERE!
They now find themselves in third place after this frustrating mini-run of form – but they still have belief in themselves to redeem themselves and this is because of their manager according to centre-back Kyle Bartley.
He said to the Express and Star: “It was disappointing not to have the fans here last year and it was disappointing my family weren’t able to see me play in the Premier League.
“But hopefully that is something they can enjoy next season.”
“We’ll be pushing to get back there this season and for a lot of the boys, myself included, it was good to challenge ourselves.
“Although the end goal didn’t work out, a lot of us know we can play at that level now. And especially under the new manager, he’s given us confidence and belief that we can get back there.”
Football is just as much of a mental game as it is physical, so the players having confidence and belief can only be a good thing to get them over this underwhelming spell of form.
They may remain unbeaten, but their three recent draws has stifled progress at The Hawthorns after such a good start and more frustration from supporters will start to creep in if they continue to drop points.
Remaining unbeaten will give them encouragement going into their upcoming ties, but belief and confidence alone won’t be enough for a side that need to be more clinical in front of goal.
They need to need to find themselves in a position where it’s virtually impossible not to score with both the quality and quantity of the opportunities they create, even though they still create a fair amount of chances.
After conceding twice in three games, the attackers will know they have a good chance of winning if they can score two. Now is the time for the likes of Jordan Hugill, Grady Diangana, Karlan Grant and Callum Robinson to return the favour and fire the Baggies to victory, even when the defence has a tough day which they inevitably will do at various points throughout the season.