Club News

Mel has eyes on the prize

New boss relishing passionate Villa Park encounter

PEPE Mel hopes to deliver the bragging rights to the Baggies supporters against Villa – but insists the biggest prize on offer tomorrow night (ko 7.45pm) is the three points.

The 50-year-old Spaniard will get his first taste of a West Midlands derby in his first away game as Albion head coach.

He is hoping his 13th-placed troops can build on their impressive second-half performance against in-form Everton at Villa Park.

And a win would lift them above the Claret and Blues and up to tenth provided Norwich do not beat Newcastle at Carrow Road and Hull do not win at Crystal Palace tonight.

“It’s a big game for us, for the fans, the club and players,” said Mel.

“We need to win.

“The second half against Everton was good and this is the way forward for us to win matches.

“This match is also important because of the table.

“I’ve watched Villa’s last two games at Villa Park against Arsenal and at Anfield against Liverpool and they are very good on the counter-attack.

“They are very good on the long play and with the second ball through [Christian] Benteke.

“The players know this question and this week have worked hard on the pitch to stop the second ball and stop the counter-attack.”

As a Real Betis player and coach, Mel enjoyed the intensity of the city derby with Seville.

And expects the same level of passion in tomorrow’s Villa Park encounter under the floodlights.

He added: “The difference with derbies – at least what happens in Seville - is perhaps the wife is a Betis fan and the husband is a Seville fan or one brother is a Betis fan and the other is a Seville fan.

“I don’t know whether that happens here.

“Certainly in Seville the games ignite a lot of passion.

“The derby results last for six months because for the team who is on the losing side it means their supporters have a bad time for those six months.

“I didn’t enjoy derbies as a player because I was usually on the losing side, with Betis being a smaller club.

“Seville had players such as Maradona and Simeone, we had much more run of the mill players.

“But I do know they are very enjoyable when you win - and enjoyable for the fans.

“I hope we win on Wednesday night and I hope to be able to give the fans a good time. 

“I hope the West Bromwich Albion fans are able to do the Boing Boing.”