And boss provides latest on injuries as season edges closer
ALAN Irvine has confirmed Chris Brunt will remain as captain this season - as the Hawthorns boss reflects on the Baggies' injury situation.
Brunt took over the armband from Scott Carson during the 2010/11 campaign and remained skipper under Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke and Pepe Mel.
And the Northern Ireland international, who got 90 minutes under his belt at Port Vale on Tuesday, will be buoyed by Irvine's ringing endorsement as he steps up his comeback from a pre-season groin operation.
"It was absolutely fantastic to get 90 minutes from Chris Brunt,” said Irvine.
"Tuesday's game was as much for him as it was for anyone else.
“We decided to rest as many as we could and it was terrific for Chris to play 90 minutes - a big bonus for us.
"Chris will absolutely be our captain. There's absolutely no reason to change it. I can't see any reason whatsoever to do it.
"He has the respect of the changing room, he's done a great job as captain for many years so I have no intention to make any changes.”
But while the Albion chief has no doubts about Brunt's captaincy he admits injuries are causing him a headache at centre-half with Gareth McAuley (tight calf) and Joleon Lescott (knee) racing against time to be fit to face Sunderland in nine days' time.
"Gareth McAuley trained yesterday but it was asking far too much for him to be involved on Tuesday," added Irvine.
"Hopefully he will be training again today.
"I think making the first game of the season is a big ask for Gareth to be perfectly honest.
"He's missed so much pre-season that it is very difficult to throw him in.
"Joleon Lescott is still not training.
"He is still suffering with a knee problem.
"We don't think it is anything major but he has a bit of fluid on his knee.
"We are hopeful he will be back soon.
"He has done a bit more - but it is a tall order.
"It depends what happens over the next nine days but if you're asking me now whether they'll make it, it is 'probably not'.
"We do have options because Chris Baird can play there if we had a problem with Jonas [Olsson] or Craig Dawson.
"Chris can play centre-back and so can Andre Wisdom."
James Morrison (knee) remains sidelined but Sebastien Pocognoli (multiple injuries) and Victor Anichebe (groin) could be available to face Porto on Saturday.
"James Morrison is still not training," said Irvine.
"Sebastien we expect to train today, and we will need to see what bumps and bruises we have got.
"Sebastien has multiple injuries. He will be fine - there was no reason to risk him at Port Vale - and I suspect he will train and be available for Saturday.
"Victor Anichebe, who was very good on Tuesday, and deserved a goal, felt a bit tight around his groin so hopefully we've prevented any further problems."