Pepe Mel vows to earn respect at West Bromwich Albion

 

West Brom head coach Pepe Mel insists he has no regrets about taking the job.

Albion have played seven times under the Spaniard since his appointment in January and are yet to win.

They are very much in the thick of this season's Barclays Premier League relegation battle, clear of the drop zone in 17th place on goal difference alone ahead of Saturday's trip to Swansea, and have lost a considerable number of players through injury over the last few weeks.

With the furore over Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' goal celebration also thrown into the mix, it has hardly made for an enjoyable time in the Baggies hot seat so far for former Real Betis boss Mel.

But asked if he had any regrets about taking the job, Mel, speaking in Spanish and through a translator, said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday: "No.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Alongside the situation with Anelka, the injuries and of course the results, there is also the fact that it is a new country with a new language and culture.

"But, for me, it was an opportunity and a really exciting one.

"I'm a very well recognised head coach in Spain, but here I have to earn the right to be respected.

"This is what I am trying to do and the only way I know is through hard work."

Stretching back to before Mel's arrival at the club, West Brom have taken maximum points only once in 18 league games.

 

They have 10 matches left to play, and while that is one more than 18th-placed Cardiff, 19th-placed Sunderland have 12 more to go and are only a point worse off than Albion and the Bluebirds.

Mel is in no doubt that Saturday's contest at the Liberty Stadium is a 'must-win' game for the Baggies.

The 51-year-old - whose side, after Swansea, face Hull and Norwich away either side of hosting Cardiff - said: "Of course we must win.

"It is being said that there are four important games, but for me there is only one important thing at the moment, and that is to beat Swansea."

Certainly, it seems Mel has confidence in his players.

Asked if could see winners in the West Brom dressing room, he said: "If this wasn't the case - if I didn't believe there were - then I would have already spoken to the chairman in order to leave."

The confidence the Albion hierarchy has in Mel appears less certain, with reports having suggested his position is already under threat.

Following last weekend's 3-0 home loss to Manchester United, he responded to questions about the prospect of him being axed by saying: "It doesn't depend on me."

But he also stressed his certainty he could keep West Brom up, and at the very least, it looks like Mel has the backing of some of the club's fans.

It has emerged that Baggies supporters are set to take Spain flags with them to Swansea as a show of support for Mel.

And asked about that, he said on Thursday: "I think the supporters are extremely important.

"Players and coaches come and go but the supporters really are the heart and soul of the club.

"I can only thank them. Since I came to West Brom, they have been extremely kind to me.

"Indeed, everyone at the club has. But what I would really like to stress is that I am extremely indebted to the supporters.

"But perhaps this isn't the best game because Swansea have eight Spanish players!"

Mel also said that Steven Reid (knee), Billy Jones and Claudio Yacob (both hamstring) would not feature on Saturday. Diego Lugano and Chris Brunt (both knee) had already been ruled out.

PA

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