West Brom 1 Everton 1: Pepe Mel will make decisions and has no intention of dropping striker Nicolas Anelka
The Baggies' sponsor Zoopla will end their partnership with the club at the end of the season over Anelka's controversial 'quenelle' gesture
Tuesday 21 January 2014
New West Brom manager Pepe Mel insists he will make decisions in the best interests of the club from a football perspective and had no intention of dropping Nicolas Anelka.
The Frenchman played 77 minutes of the Baggies' 1-1 draw at home to Everton having dominated the pre-match build-up as the furore over his controversial 'quenelle' gesture rumbled on.
In the hours leading up to the game shirt sponsors Zoopla, who had reportedly requested the 34-year-old not play and also not wear their name on his shirt, announced they would not be renewing their £3million two-year deal when it expired in the summer.
Mel, who had enough to deal with preparing for his first match in charge, insisted the situation regarding Anelka - who is awaiting the imminent conclusion of a Football Association investigation - had not adversely affected him or his team.
Asked whether he considered dropping the striker, the Baggies boss said: "No. I spoke to him yesterday (Sunday) and asked him if he was ready to play and he said he was.
"Nicolas is a very good player. He is a very good professional and I am only the head coach.
"My obligation is to think about football and the best interests of West Bromwich Albion.
"If he is suspended then I won't be able to play him but at the club we must just think about winning matches."
They were not able to win but Diego Lugano's 75th-minute near-post header cancelled out Kevin Mirallas' first-half opener and ensured Mel opened his Premier League account with a point.
"It was a long day for me as I was working from 8am to get ready for the game but the end is beautiful," Mel added.
"The result really is a very fair one. The first half we were too open and the second half we were too compact.
"In the first half we made lots of errors which could have cost us the game but thankfully we were able to talk about them at half-time.
"It was very good first step. Everton are a strong side but we go away from here thinking we did a good job."
Everton missed the chance to go fourth and manager Roberto Martinez knew they should have capitalised on their first-half performance.
The Spaniard is hopeful a successful work permit application for Monaco's 6ft 8ins Ivory Coast striker Lacina Traore will provide more firepower after he sold Nikica Jelavic to Hull last week.
"Lacina is a player who I really like and is someone who would fit in really well in the role we want the player to come in," he said.
"There are a couple of hurdles that we need to get over; the work permit is something we need to look into.
"If we can get through that he will be a player we will be very keen to add to the squad,.
"He had a recent soft tissue problem but it is not too bad. He is a few days away from being fully fit and we were quite happy with the medical.
"Every work permit is difficult. We have a very strong case of showing why we need Lacina with us.
"He is a very talented footballer. He is only 23 and has already had a couple of moves (totalling) nearly £30million but every work permit is a difficult one and we will try our best."
Pepe Mel reflects on his first game in charge of West Brom:
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