PEPE Mel has hailed the influence of Gareth McAuley in the absence of suspended vice-captain Jonas Olsson, who returns to the fold for this weekend’s trip to Norwich.
With fellow centre-back Olsson serving a two-match ban and captain Chris Brunt injured, McAuley was selected as stand-in skipper for the trip to Hull and Saturday’s draw against Cardiff.
Playing through the pain barrier due to an ankle injury, the Northern Ireland international has been immense at the heart of defence and it has not gone unnoticed by Mel.
“I think he is a very good example and we should be very proud of his work,” the Spaniard said.
“Despite the fact he was suffering physically, he played a good game against Cardiff.
“We don’t know what the extent of the damage is yet.
“But we needed him to play and he’s demonstrated he is a good professional.”
The Baggies will be taking around 2,500 fans to Norfolk for Saturday’s crunch clash (ko 3pm).
Norwich are just two points and three places above 17th-placed Albion in the Barclays Premier League table.
And after the cruel nature of Cardiff’s late leveller in last weekend’s dramatic 3-3 draw, head coach Mel is even more determined to secure a positive result against the Canaries.
“The next game is always the most important game - but particularly after the bitter feeling we had on Saturday,” he added.