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Al-Habsi arrives at Albion

29 August 2019

Albion have today added to their goalkeeping numbers by welcoming back Ali Al-Habsi to English football.

The former Bolton, Wigan and Reading keeper has signed until the end of the season to provide further competition to senior pair Sam Johnstone and Jonathan Bond.

It follows a week-long training stint by the super-fit 37-year-old who played against Slaven Bilić in Saudi Arabia last season but was yearning for one more try in English football.

Ali is back in England after a two-year stint with Al-Hilal, which was climaxed by winning Saudi’s domestic championship, and is eager to taste again the sort of excitement he enjoyed in Wigan’s FA Cup triumph and Reading’s run to the Play-Off final.

“I’ve spent 12 years in English football and when the chance to come here and finish my career in England in a nice way came around, I had no doubts,” says Ali.

“I knew ‘Bondy’ from my time at Reading and I spoke with Ahmed (Hegazi) who I’ve followed since he came here and it is fantastic to be here.

“I want to help the team and help the keepers – I know the target of the Club is to go back into the Premier League and I want to be part of that. It would be brilliant for me. What I’ve seen so far is really, really good.

“I’m still fit and I’m looking forward to this competition. I’ve been involved for a long, long time in English football. This is the country of football.”

Ali’s following back home is just as fanatical, however, after winning 127 caps for Oman and it appears the Baggies are about to win a new army of followers from his native land.

“Everybody in Oman will be very, very happy that I have this chance to finish my career here in England,” he says.

“They have been contacting me all the time to find out what was happening.”

Ali’s arrival follows contact two weeks ago from Baggies goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh who has warned his current senior keepers that the newcomer will not be along for an easy ride.

Gary said: “We were really keen for Ali to come over.

“He’s played in Saudi for the last two years, which is a good standard, and I knew the way he lives his life and the way he trains that he was in top condition. He’s 37 but he’s not, if you see what I mean.

“His last two years in the Championship at Reading he was voted Player of the Year each time and the manager saw him play against him in Saudi last season.

“He’s got a great personality for the dressing room and for Sam and Bondy and he’s not come in as a No.3. He’s come to push Sam and Jonathan all the way.”


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