Club News

Irvine prepared for tough calls

Baggies head coach on Olsson and Lescott

ALAN Irvine is ready, willing and able to take more tough decisions now his options are beginning to expand within Albion’s squad.

The Baggies head coach admits telling Sweden international defender Jonas Olsson, a stalwart of Albion’s rearguard and regular first-choice, that he would not be figuring at Tottenham on Sunday was not an easy moment.

But Irvine acknowledges there will be more to come now that injuries are beginning to clear and fitness levels of players who were late to the pre-season training schedule are improving.

“It wasn’t easy telling Jonas what I intended to do,” said Irvine. 

“I have huge respect for him. He is a top professional and a very, very good player but he has made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes which have proved costly in the last couple of games.

“I have a full range of choices for the first time and I had to look a couple of people in the eye and tell them they were not playing. It is never pleasant but it is part of the job. 

“And you can be absolutely certain that Jonas will remain a very important member of the squad.”

The long-serving Swede stood aside to make way for the debut of summer signing Joleon Lescott, who gave a performance which earned rave reviews from Albion fans and the wider game generally.

It ended a frustrating period for the England defender whose pre-season preparations were interrupted by niggling injuries.

Albion and Irvine have had to stay patient but the latter believes Lescott’s commanding debut underlined the value of the club’s careful handling of the defender’s return to fitness.

“We would have been taking a big risk with Joleon had we put him in before he was ready and I hope the fans understand that,” said Irvine.

“I keep trying to explain that we want to put people in the team but they have to be ready. 

“We already had a setback with him in the pre-season friendly at Forest. But we felt he was ready this week. 

“There were no niggles or aches after his work, everything was good and it was also the right opportunity to put him in.”