Defender back in contention
Joleon Lescott has opened the door to an Albion debut with an impressive return to action in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
The 32-year-old England international, whose first months at the club have been dogged by a knee injury, came through with flying colours in a private friendly against fellow Premier League outfit Hull City yesterday.
Lescott,has returned from a week in the US where he has been working with fitness specialists who have served him well in the past.
And he completed the 90 minutes against a strong Tigers team.
Watching from the sidelines, head coach Alan Irvine was delighted with Lescott’s progress, which has thrown open the chance of a Baggies blooding against one of his old clubs Everton on Saturday.
“Joleon played the 90 minutes and played well – he looked good,” said Irvine.
“Now we will see how he feels after the game but it was very encouraging.
“Now it is really important that we do not rush him because that could lead to a set-back.
“He’s got to be right before we consider him for a first team game but I’m sure he would love to play at the weekend.
“Certainly, the sooner we have Joleon and indeed all the other injury-affected players fit the better.”
And there was further good news for Irvine on that front with Sebastian Blanco stepping up his fitness levels with a full 90 minutes and Cristian Gamboa playing for 80.
There was also an impressive performance from Liam O’Neil in midfield which has left Irvine now anxious to find the Academy graduate and Under 21s captain first-team football at a suitable League club.
“I was very pleased with a lot of our young players who featured – Liam did particularly well and now needs first team football,” added Irvine.
“We’ve got more experienced players ahead of him but he’s one we have to be careful with because you do not want his levels to drop. He needs first team football.”
Albion are still awaiting a full assessment on Youssouf Mulumbu, who picked up a hamstring injury playing for DR Congo but their other international casualties – Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley and Graham Dorrans – are all making progress.