STEVEN Reid admits this has been his hardest pre-season yet – but is relishing the senior role he now plays on and off the pitch for the Baggies.
The 32-year-old is approaching the start of his 11th successive Barclays Premier League campaign.
And, while he does not expect to play every league game this term, he expects to make another big contribution to Albion’s campaign.
“As you get on a little bit in years pre-season becomes tougher,” said Reid.
“This is the 17th full-time one I’ve done and it does become harder as the years go on.
“For a lot of the older lads in the modern game you sort of tailor your pre-season a little bit.
“One or two players might need something a bit different – maybe a gym session or maybe a pool session to take the load off the legs.
“It does become tougher – but enjoyable, especially with the group of younger lads we have.”
He added: “There has been a couple of times over the years when it’s crossed my mind to call it a day.
“I had about three or four years on the spin where I didn’t get a summer break – it was rehab all the way through the summer, so every season just seemed to blend into one.
“But I still feel like I can do it and compete, and keep up with the younger lads, which is good.”
And, after signing a new one-year deal last month, the former Ireland international revealed how eager Steve Clarke was to keep his influence in the dressing room.
“I knew, having had long chats with him towards the end of last season, that he wanted me at the club,” he said.
“I like to think I’m a decent influence in the dressing room and around the training ground.
"We’ve got a good group of senior players who look after the dressing room a little bit.
“The gaffer and his staff do that but you still need players in the dressing room to patrol it and I’d like to think my role off the field has become just as important as my role on it - but I still feel I can do the job in the Premier League, otherwise I would have called it time - perhaps!
“I think he was probably the major factor in my decision.
“There was a point where I was close to looking at other avenues and I made a point of ringing the head coach and making sure I was going to be in his plans playing-wise for the coming season.
“He made it clear that if I’m fit I will be getting games in.
“Billy [Jones] has been superb in the last couple of years but I’m sure we will both get opportunities to play games.
“If I wasn’t going to be part of his plans going forward then maybe it would be been time to look elsewhere, but at the same time I’ve got to be realistic and, with my body, I’m not going to be fit for every single week of the season.
“It probably suits me and my body to play maybe 15, 20 or 25 games, but if I can make a big impact in those games and we can win then hopefully that’s good enough for the club.”
Reid made his senior debut at the tender age of 17 for Millwall and he admits having youngsters like Liam O’Neil, Cameron Gayle, Donervorn Daniels, Adil Nabi
, Kemar Roofe and Saido Berahino on tour in Austria with him has made him reflect on those days.
“I think I would pay a lot of money to rewind a few years and go back to when I was their age,” he added.
“I remember looking up to senior players of my age when I was at Millwall and it really does go that quickly.
“When you’re coming into these last couple of years of your career you look at these younger lads and wish you were back to that age, training every day with no aches and pains and no stiffness in the joints.
“It’s important that they take this opportunity and try to make a good impression on the head coach because at times we haven’t got the biggest squad in the world and it might be an opportunity for them to play their way into the head coach’s plans.
“It was a good group at Millwall.
“Tim Cahill springs to mind, but there was myself, Paul Ifill and others.
“It’s a similar situation to what we’ve got here.
“We had a good group of youngsters and good senior players like Bobby Bowry, Sean Dyche, Stuart Nethercott, Ricky Newman to look after the dressing room and keep us in line.
“But we were only 17 or 18, whereas this group are older than that - they’re not actually kids."