07:00 24th May 2013
But defender proud of Baggies' achievements
GARETH McAuley expects his team-mates to return from their summer break with the bit between their teeth to make up for missed opportunities.
The Northern Ireland international is proud to have been part of a squad that achieved the club’s best-ever points haul (49) and league position (eighth) in the Barclays Premier League.
But he admits there is an underlying frustration they did not break the 50-point barrier or finish even higher in the table.
“Eighth place is a fantastic achievement,” said McAuley.
“We set out at the start of the season to better where we finished last year and we will probably set the same target next year when we come back for pre-season.
“Finishing in the top eight is a great achievement but there is a little bit of frustration that in the second half of the season we weren’t as good and we could maybe have finished a bit higher if we had kept going in the second half.
“We just hit a period where we had a few injuries and a few key players out of the team.
“That carried on for a long period.
“When we got them back we picked up a bit of rhythm and picked up a few more points.
“So, if we can keep people fit and playing, hopefully we can carry on our form throughout the season, rather than just the first half or first three quarters.
“We got to 40 points ages ago. It seems like an eternity.
“We just couldn’t get to 50, unfortunately, so I think when the dust settles in a couple of weeks we will be kicking ourselves because we threw points and games away really.
“When you look back over the season we could have been well over 50.”
He added: “I think it’s the right time for the break.
“We have put a lot into the season and started to become a bit tired in the group.
“And we’ve started to become a bit tired of seeing each other every day as well!
“It’s good to get away for a bit, but I’m sure in a fortnight’s time I’ll be ready to go again.”
One man McAuley would love to see back at The Hawthorns again is Romelu Lukaku, who wrapped up his season-long loan from Chelsea with a sensational second-half hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-5 draw with Manchester United.
“I will be on at him every day during the summer,” McAuley joked.
“Everybody will be after him for next season because he’s a great talent but he likes it here.
“He’s got 17 goals for us this season, and if Chelsea don’t use him next season hopefully he will come back and get us 20-plus next season.
“He’s been a force for us.
“He is a great player and we saw that on Sunday, when he came off the bench and changed it for us.
“He scored three goals and we couldn’t ask any more from him.”