Bilić calls on ‘important’ away support

Slaven Bilić says he will need Albion’s boisterous away following to be at their very best when his side make the five-mile journey to Birmingham City on Saturday.

The Baggies, whose allocation of 2,800 seats sold out four weeks ago, will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run to 12 Sky Bet Championship fixtures in the lunchtime kick-off at St Andrew’s.

And Bilić, who understands the place Blues-Albion takes in the West Midlands local derby pecking order, still expects a “special” game.

“I’m looking forward to it, of course, I’ve been told about this game,” he said. “With Villa and Wolves in the Premier League that leaves us and them with this derby and it will be a special game.

“We’re looking forward, and me personally, to the game. We need to treat it as a normal game, to be patient, I’ve managed a lot of derby games and I played a few, and it’s the speed. It’s an hour and it feels like there’s only five minutes gone, so you have to play your own game. “

On Albion’s tremendous away support, he added: “I’ve said it before that we feel them every time we play. The home crowd is great, but you expect that, away you don’t expect that you’re going to hear them more than the home fans. It’s happening - from the first game of the season they have been very important for us.

“And they are one of the biggest reasons we are where we are.”

The Baggies boss has already watched countless Birmingham games as he assesses Saturday’s opposition and says he expects to face an organised and aggressive Pep Clotet side.

“It’s a derby game so you expect more from them also. In the games so far that we’ve watched, and we’ve watched quite a few, you can see that they are a very aggressive team. They are a very compact team. Then, if you add that it’s a derby game, you can expect that they will be really on fire.

“When you have the ball they are extremely good defensively. They have a good block of nine players and they are doing that really well, especially in midfield. If you add that it’s a derby game there’s going to be even more tight and aggressive. It will be very hard to find space. That’s why we have to find space, be patient when moving the ball, to try to create those little pockets.”

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