New West Bromwich Albion manager Valerien Ismael has reinforced the importance of club legends Tony Brown and Chris Brunt in an interview with Birmingham Live, after hosting a meeting with the pair shortly after his arrival.
Ismael, 45, was appointed late last month as Sam Allardyce’s successor and has already made former Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt his first signing at The Hawthorns, but still has a lot to learn about the Baggies as he adjusts to life in the West Midlands.
The Frenchman’s only spell in England so far came at Barnsley last year, where he oversaw the club’s rise from 21st to fifth in the Championship in just over six months and came within three games of taking the Tykes to the Premier League.
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Despite narrowly losing out to Swansea City in the play-off semi-finals, this was still seen as a remarkable season for the South Yorkshire side and with this, the 45-year-old was rewarded with the West Brom job.
For a side that was relegated last season and still have star players including Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira on their books, nothing less than promotion will be acceptable – but he has the help of Baggies’ legends Tony Brown and Chris Brunt to ease him into this big task.
Speaking about the importance of the key men and their first meeting to Birmingham Live, the manager stated: “It was an honour to meet such legends and as a player when you stay such a long time at the club you know everything, the history, environment, the mentality.
“It was about talking about what it means to play for West Brom. To get the feeling, for me, and maybe in some situations in the season to know exactly what the expectation is and I can transfer into the team.”
“The way we want to be, to involve everyone. People have worked a long time for the club and it will be a help for me and the staff.
“The identity and philosophy on the pitch is through players, former players. If we can involve former players in the club it’s always important for the fans to have that emotional connection.”
Another former West Brom legend in James Morrison has joined the Frenchman’s coaching team ahead of the new season.
He may have done extremely well at Barnsley, but managing West Brom is a whole different kettle of fish with the fans’ expectations and some of the players he currently has at his disposal. Ismael knows this.
Because of this, he’s correct in pointing out the importance of these key figures as an important constant at The Hawthorns. Whilst it’s important for things to change and the former Barnsley boss to put his own stamp on the team, people like Brown and Brunt will already know the existing team inside out.
They will be able to point out strengths, areas to improve on and what makes them tick – and taking care of that mental side of the game is what could be the difference between promotion and failure next term.
Football is a game of fine margins – and if Ismael can get the small details right and nail his tactics during the next campaign – West Brom fans should start to get excited about what could potentially happen in the next 12 months.