Midfielder returns to native North-East eager for three points
JAMES Morrison admits it is a ‘huge relief’ for Albion’s Barclays Premier League status to be all-but mathematically secured and is now relishing the chance to play with greater freedom.
The Baggies travel to Sunderland tonight for their penultimate match of the season, with Stoke the visitors to the Black Country on Sunday.
Pepe Mel’s side are three points and a +19 goal difference clear of third-bottom Norwich, who host Arsenal at the weekend in their final fixture.
One more point would make absolute certain of top-flight football next season but it would also take an unlikely pattern of results for Albion to taste relegation from their current position.
“It was a huge relief over the weekend,” said midfielder Morrison, who started Albion’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal before watching Norwich register a goalless draw at Chelsea.
“Obviously we know we’re not mathematically safe yet, we’ve still got jobs to do and we want to finish on a high.
“But that pressure is off us now, it’s been hanging over us for a few months. It’s been difficult to play under.
“We’ve got two good games and we want to finish as high as we can.”
The 27-year-old added: “We’ve got a good bunch of lads, the core has been together quite a while and we’ve been in situations like this before.
“We’ve rallied together and we’ve picked up some good wins which has given us a boost.
“Fair play to the head coach and the staff, they’ve done a great job to get us safe and it’s a big achievement.”
Morrison, a graduate of Middlesbrough’s youth system before joining Albion in 2007, returns to his native North-East tonight to face the Black Cats and will be backed by a host of family and friends in attendance.
Albion’s longest-serving player will also be coming up against plenty of familiar faces in the home dressing room.
Morrison grew up playing alongside Adam Johnson and Lee Cattermole, while he rooms with Phil Bardsley at international level for Scotland, with whom he also plays alongside current injury absentee Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland go into the clash one point below the Baggies in the table - two points above the drop zone - and likely needing just a draw to be sure of their own survival.
It is a position which looked unlikely before taking ten points from the last 12 on offer against Manchester City, Chelsea, Cardiff and Manchester United.
Morrison said: “Huge credit to Sunderland, everyone’s seen the banner reading ‘miracles happen’.
“Credit to their squad for rallying, who would have thought they would have got results at the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea. It’s some going.
“It’s going to be another tough game and one we’re ready for. We want that win.
“We’re excited for Wednesday, there isn’t really any pressure on us, we can go out and enjoy it.
“We should play better. The pressure has been horrible, we’ve got some good players here, there’s no question about that. It’s whether we can put it together as a team.
“If we can finish on a high with two games left it would be a tremendous boost for us going into next season.”