But boss admits Morrison is facing catch-up period
GARETH McAuley is set for a return to action in Albion Under-21s' behind-closed-doors friendly with Nottingham Forest tomorrow.
The Baggies centre-half was back in training last Monday having been sidelined by a calf problem since the beginning of pre-season.
He is edging closer to full fitness but looks likely to miss the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign against Sunderland on Saturday along with Joleon Lescott and James Morrison (both knee), who are both currently not training.
“Gareth McAuley will hopefully get some playing time in an Under-21s match with Nottingham Forest in the week," said head coach Alan Irvine.
The Baggies boss admits Morrison will be playing catch-up when the season gets underway after seeing the Scotland international's pre-season hampered by his recovery from a summer knee operation.
“It’s a big concern that Morrison hasn’t trained all summer, admitted Irvine.
“He’s an important player for us and we could have done with him being with us for pre-season.
“Unfortunately he had an operation just before pre-season started and sadly it’s taken him an awful lot longer to get back than was anticipated.
“It’s a big disappointment because we could do with all our best players being fit and available.
“Clearly, when you miss a pre-season, it becomes difficult to catch up.
“He joined in the early part of training on Friday and then went away and did his own work.
“The boys that have done pre-season have been in for five-and-a-half weeks and there isn’t a short cut to getting fit and ready for games.
“He’s a fit lad, which is a real bonus.
“But it’s going to be a big, big task for him to get up to his maximum and best condition.”
The Albion chief was pleased to see Chris Brunt and Stephane Sessegnon get important minutes on the pitch against FC Porto on Saturday after both seeing their pre-season preparations disrupted by a groin operation and international duty respectively.
“It was nice to have Chris Brunt play 60 minutes and that was all I could expect of him against that level of opposition" he added.
“He had to work extremely hard and he’s not had a proper pre-season.
“Stephane Sessegnon is another one who hasn’t had a proper pre-season so that’s the reason he didn’t get so many minutes.
“It was good to get Stephane Sessegnon on the pitch for the first time since the very first game of pre-season."