Left-back also discusses his local derby experiences
GORAN Popov has called on Albion supporters to whip up a derby-day atmosphere to remember at The Hawthorns for this evening’s clash with West Midlands rivals Villa (ko 5.30pm).
The Macedonia international has become a firm fans’ favourite since joining on loan from Dynamo Kiev in August - with the Baggies' faithful dedicating to him the chant ‘Popov the Albion man’, sung to the tune of ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’.
And the 28-year-old has revealed the song will inspire him to go the extra mile for Steve Clarke’s outfit during the 160th meeting of the two clubs.
“I know from the song the fans sing about me that Villa is a big game for us,” said Popov.
“I’m sure if I play on Saturday, they will sing the song a lot!
“When the supporters sing that song I am able to give more than 100 per cent.
“You are able to offer more, you can run more and you can play more when you have people behind you singing your name.
“My first game for Albion was at Villa and everyone was disappointed we didn’t win that game because we had enough chances.”
Popov is no newcomer to fierce rivalries and has experience of intense derbies from his time with Heerenveen and Dynamo Kiev.
But he believes the close proximity of tonight’s visitors gives the game added spice.
“When I played in Holland, I played in a big derby for Heerenveen against Groningen,” Popov added.
“I also played in Dynamo Kiev’s games with Shakhtar Donetsk but that’s not in the same city. It’s about a one-hour flight.
“Here, the two teams are very close and sometimes I see players from Aston Villa in restaurants and when I am shopping.
“The players and fans all live very close to one another. That makes it a big derby because there is more at stake than just a game.
“It’s important you win so that the other team cannot joke about you.
“If you lose the game, you dread seeing a player from Aston Villa when you are out.
“I want to be able to win so I can walk happily through the centre of Birmingham!”