CHRIS Brunt insists his team-mates are fired up for today’s derby date at Villa (ko 4pm).
Albion will be looking to extend their unbeaten record in derbies to five games after three wins and a draw against Wolves and their Claret and Blue neighbours last season.
And the club skipper, who is set to make his 150th league start for the Baggies this afternoon, hopes the travelling supporters will leave Villa Park with the bragging rights for the second consecutive campaign.
“We had a decent result there last year and last year was good for us overall in the derbies,” said Brunt.
“There’s no reason for us to go there with no confidence.
“We have done well in the league as well, we had the one blip at Fulham but our form has been pretty good apart from that.
“We know what it means to the fans and obviously the Wolves game for us last year was a big one for the fans - but now there’s only Villa.
“This is the only derby the fans have to look forward to this season so it’s up to us to make sure we come away with the same sort of results we did in the derby games last year.
“It’s one we’re looking forward to but it’s never an easy occasion in a derby game, especially going away from home as well.”
The 27-year-old midfielder believes finishing above Villa last term to become the top-placed Midlands side illustrates the improvements Albion have made since he joined from Sheffield Wednesday in 2007.
“It’s nice for us to be on the up, that’s probably the best thing you can say about us, we keep improving every season and if people regard us as the best team in the area then that’s great, but that is just credit to what’s gone on at the football club over the last five or six years.
“Obviously Villa had a rough season last year and they finished near the bottom but the last couple of seasons, for a long part, we were looking over our shoulders as well.
“It wasn’t as if we were a million miles away, and obviously Villa are a big club, have a big stadium and big fan base – that is probably where the big club emphasis comes from, I’d have thought, and past successes.”
The Northern Ireland international experienced a frustrating pre-season due to a calf problem but hopes to keep his place in Steve Clarke’s starting XI after starting his first league game this term in last
Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Reading.
He added: “I’ve been injured so I’ve pretty much accepted not starting.
“If the team’s doing well and you’ve been injured you don’t expect to go straight back into the team.
“Just because I am captain doesn’t mean I’ll be any different.
“I missed a lot of pre-season and I wasn’t fit enough to play in the games.
“Obviously the lads have done really well, I’ve been delighted to watch it and to be involved as much as I have has been fine.
“I’ve spoken to the gaffer a few times and he has spoken to me.
“It’s been grand, it’s just part and parcel of football, people pick up injuries, that’s the way it goes.
“It was nice to start the game last week, it wasn’t a great performance, it was a good win, it was the sort of game we probably wouldn’t have got anything from last season, especially at home, so hopefully all
being well today I can get another start, that is my aim really, just try and keep playing and hopefully get back in the side.”