ALBION Chairman Jeremy Peace has spoken of a much “happier” and “calmer” club after the busiest summer of his 12 years in charge at The Hawthorns.
The Chairman, flanked by Chief Executive Mark Jenkins and Director of Football Administration Richard Garlick, met with members of the local media yesterday to assess an eventful close season which saw the club’s playing squad undergo a major overhaul.
It has provided a major test of Albion’s football structure, headed by Technical Director Terry Burton, but following the close of the transfer window on Monday night, the Chairman professed himself content with the work undertaken.
“It does seem a happier place, very much so,” he said. “They all seem to be in quite a good place. The feedback to me has been very positive. Around the place people seem to be calmer.
“They are still hungry, they still want success. I don't think there will be a shortage of effort. They will give it their best shot.
“I think we’ve done well to do what we’ve done. At the start of the summer, we set our target to start the season with 22 players – 19 outfield and three goalkeepers. We ended up with 25 because we wanted to give our Head Coach as many options as possible. Two of the ‘extras’ are loan agreements so we are comfortable about that.
“We ended last season with 26 players, we lost 10 who were released, Billy Jones left, George Thorne has gone and we’ve recruited 11.
“January is a time when we re-assess depending on injuries and, this season, the potential for one or two players to be called away for the African Championships.
“But given the sheer volume I’m happy. We always say every summer that the ideal situation would be to have three or four contracts to do with existing players and three or four new ones to bring in.
“That would be the ideal but we never quite seem to get there.
“There always seem to be seven or eight that we have to decide on and maybe that’s because of how we run it because we have maximum contracts of three or four years.
“Therefore we probably have slightly more coming out of contract but that’s because of the financial model we have, and also because players coming from abroad are maybe looking to showcase themselves in the Premier League and maybe get a better move somewhere.
“I think because the league is ever-evolving and getting stronger and stronger you have to keep evolving and developing your squad and that puts more pressure on the clubs among that second or third level of Premier League clubs.”
Albion’s busy recruitment drive was headed by Burton and Garlick and occupied "enormous man hours" and hundreds of players being monitored by the club’s research and scouting network as the targets were whittled down to the eventual signings.
While Burton worked closely with Head Coach Alan Irvine to identify the type of players required, Garlick took on the task of fronting the negotiations.
He gave an insight of the detail of Albion’s "homework" which for the first four weeks of the summer saw staff pouring over the ‘intel’ on players.
“You have to rely on previous scouting reports and DVDs that are now available for every game in the world and which you can clip," Garlick said.
“That’s where you start and then you go after those targets – or the ones Terry and Alan were happy collectively to go after.
“Some we landed, some we didn’t, because that’s just the market as it is and then you go back and say ‘we haven’t got that one’ and give up, or you can say ‘let’s have a look at other information that’s coming in about people who have become available’.
“Players can become available when you didn’t think they would be available for whatever reason, so they get added to the lists and you go back and look at previous targets and think about re-igniting those.”
Albion’s management team acknowledge the head coach’s work gelling the team’s has been complicated by injuries and a World Cup summer which delayed the arrival of four recruits.
“All you can do is trust your research and I think our research is continually improving,” added the Chairman.