Albion head coach pleased with Varela progress
ALAN Irvine has welcomed Silvestre Varela into the winger's union - with the Albion head coach instructing the Portugal international to turn it on for the team.
As a player Irvine was a wide player, appearing for the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace, Dundee United and Blackburn - he was actually one-time England winger Steve Coppell's first signing as Palace boss.
And Varela has now been cast into a similar role for the Baggies, performing well against Villa last week.
A lack of initial fitness and minor surgery made it a frustrating opening half to this season for the 29-year-old, who is on a season-long loan deal from FC Porto.
But Irvine is ready to unleash him on a more frequent basis - not least as he gets fans off seats.
"That’s the dribblers for you, isn’t it?" said Irvine.
"We love them when they’re going past people, we get frustrated when they don’t and I'm speaking as a dribbler.
"Everybody used to shout 'take him' ...and then you lost it, they said you 'should have passed it'. You’ve got to live with that.
"It’s the hardest thing to do I believe, to actually go past people, because you’ve got to be positive, you’ve got to be mentally strong, you’ve got to be brave, mentally and physically brave.
"We have to encourage people like Silvestre.
"Silvestre was told that he was in the team to take people on, that was why he was in the team.
"If I wanted somebody to shore things up, I would have put somebody else on because he isn’t the person. He’s there to take people on.
"I have to accept when he goes out on that pitch it’s not going to work all the time. So we have to support him when it doesn’t work, and we can applaud him when it does."
So when did Irvine finally believe Varela was ready for first-team action?
Irvine answered: "It’s what he’s starting to do in training. For weeks he was having no impact in training.
"He couldn’t get past people, couldn’t get away from people.
"You could gradually see that sharpness that explosive bit that you need.
"He’s not a Gareth Bale that will knock it and run, or an Oxlade Chamberlain who will use that blistering acceleration.
"He’s somebody who has to trick you, but the ones that have to trick you need that bit of explosive pace in order to turn that decision to go past you into him being there.
"Before he just couldn’t get away. Lately in training he’s started to get away from people, enough to then deliver that cross, to get a shot at goal to make the next move.
"That bit is the hardest bit to come. That explosive bit. You can get them fit to run round and round and round, but that explosive pace and power is the hard part."
Irvine admits that working with Varela and Albion's other wide players is an enjoyable part of his job.
"I’ve got a good record of working with young wingers because they bring that talent and you can’t coach that," continued Irvine.
"You can give them the different moves, but we cant turn the lad who isn’t a dribbler into a dribbler. They’ve spent years developing that. It’s instinctive, it’s reactive.
"People say that dribblers have always got their head down looking as the ball. He’s not looking at the ball. He’s looking at your feet to see where you are. And if you put far too much weight on this one, he’ll go that way and if you put too much weight on that one he’ll go that way.
"If you get them too close together, he can go past you then, if you’re too spread apart again it’s an opportunity. It’s something reactive and instinctive but something that suddenly opens up all sorts of possibilities."
He continued: "I’m a winger, I love wingers, if you said to me put out your favourite team there’s two wingers in it. People who can go and get people off their seats. It’s exciting stuff.
"I love watching people who can eliminate other with the ball, whether that’s someone who can eliminate them with a fantastic pass or somebody who can do it by a dribble, or if it’s Gareth Bale who does it with sheer pace and power.
"Great, it changes everything when you’ve got people who can do that, but they have bad days.
"Obviously I’ve got to keep on encouraging Silvestre to do that if it doesn't always work out.
"We’ve had a few chats lately and it’s been all about that. You can play in the team if you take people on, the minute you lose that bit of confidence or that bit of courage that bit of self belief then somebody else goes in because they’ll do the other jobs better than you."