The Big Q&A Interview | Jed Wallace

Jed Wallace with him arms in the air and fists clenched

Jed Wallace is the latest Albion star to sit down and offer his take on a range of topics.

The winger discussed his childhood heroes and inspirations, why he offers so much encouragement to his team-mates, his assessment of the season so far, his love for the beautiful game, Albion's upcoming clash with former side Millwall and his relationship with the club's supporters. 

Check out the whole video interview above and the entire Q&A transcript below.

Jed, you’ve been at West Bromwich Albion for almost a year now. In your opinion, what’s the best thing about the club? 

There are loads of things. It was a new challenge for me with new players, new staff and a new set of fans to impress. I’ve really enjoyed it. Living in the area is something which I’ve also really enjoyed. I feel like everything has fallen into place to be honest and I’ve loved my time here so far.

I came here to achieve something which we’re still trying to fight to achieve and we’ve still got a few games left to try and do that. It’s made me realise that I did need that new challenge and new environment. I was at my previous club for a long time and I came here and was made to feel welcome straight away from everyone. I’ve made a lot of good friends already in the dressing room. I couldn’t speak highly enough of the club at the moment.

You’ve got five goals and eight assists in the league so far this season. How would you assess your own performances? 

I think the goals aspect is definitely something I’ve been disappointed with. I think I’ve missed a lot of chances. I always get in the positions with my pace and the way I like to run in behind. Scoring goals is definitely the main part of my game that I’ve been disappointed with because I know I can do a lot better in those scenarios.

I think I’m probably someone who is more of a creative player and I pride myself on trying to set my friends up in the team to score goals which I’ve done. The Championship season is always a slog. You can’t be at your best every week because physically and mentally you’re probably not always at 100 per cent. On the whole I’ve tried to be as consistent as I can and even if I’ve not had the best game in terms of my touch or final delivery, I know that I’m a player who will always give absolutely everything and I think the fans can relate to that and they know that as long as I’m here, they’ll know I’ve given everything I possibly can in every game regardless of how many games I play for the club.

The goals aspect is definitely something I can improve on and work harder at in training. I think I’ve hit the post about ten times this season which doesn’t help. Maybe I could do with a bit more luck and sometimes give myself half a second more to compose that finish. I want to score more goals. Overall, when you come to a new club you want to start the season well and earn the respect of your team-mates and the fans and at the moment, I think I’ve done that. I need to keep on doing that and hopefully we’ll win as many games as we can. 

Do you feel like a leader in this group Jed, or at least one of them?

Yeah. I think there’s a few of us. Obviously Dara has really grown into the role of captain and I think you forget how young he is. He’s only 24 and a top, top player. To play every minute of a season in the Championship is not easy and he’s done that. He’s definitely someone I look up to.

Then you’ve got people like Jake (Livermore), Barts (Kyle Bartley) and Matty Phillips who have been here for a long time. Jake especially. He’s not been as involved as much as he would have wanted to have been recently but he still travels to all the away games himself and is in the dressing room before games with us all. These are the things that the fans don’t see. That’s the reason when you ask around in football that you won’t find anyone who has a bad word to say about Jake. He’s a great person to have in the dressing room supporting the lads. I’ve played with lads who when they’ve not been playing perhaps don’t want the team to do well. He’s someone that every time we win, he’s the first one at the door when we’re walking back into the dressing room giving all the lads a hug. He makes sure we’re at it every week.

In terms of myself, I always think the communication and trying to help your team-mates is probably an easy part of the game. The hard part is when you’ve got a man chasing you down and you’ve got to try and pick a cross out. That’s the hard part. The easy part is communicating and trying to be a positive influence on the people around you. That’s something I’ve always tried to do. I try to keep everyone at it.

People lead in different ways. You see people like Jayson Molumby who maybe isn’t the most vocal, but he’ll run 70 yards to win a throw for you and will get the crowd on side. Everyone is different. Swifty, for example, he’s not the most vocal but will take the ball with three people around him under pressure. I think we have a lot of leaders in the group. Alex Palmer is another one. He’s really vocal and he’s been trying to bring that out of Josh Griffiths' game. Everyone gets on really well here and it’s important. We need to keep that friendship in the dressing room to keep moving forward. 

Has that always come naturally to you, or is it something that has grown as you’ve become more experienced? 

I think when I look back at my younger times I probably came across liked I cared too much and I got frustrated with myself and my team-mates. I’ve got two kids and my partner is due to give birth to our third boy in the next ten days or so. My two boys are three and five and having kids definitely does make you grow up and I think now, over the last three or four years, I’ve been calmer when I need to be.

I’ve tried to be a lot more positive in that time with myself and with everyone because football can change so quick. You can be down in the dumps and then you win three games in a week and everyone is on top of the world again, so it helps to be positive. It’s something I’ve got better with over time and I enjoy being able to influence people and be positive and try and help them be better players on the pitch. I think it’s an easy part of the game to communicate and help each other out.

What is your biggest motivation in life and in football?

I love football. I’ve always been the same. It’s that simple for me. I’ve been with players who love football and I’ve also been with players that come in, play football and they go home. For me, I’m very, very on board with football and it’s been my life since I was very young. Every game that’s on television, I’m watching it. I’m interested in all the other teams and the tactical side of the game. I don’t particularly set too many targets. When I was 16 I was playing with my mates, up until I went to Portsmouth when I was 18. So for me, being a professional is never something which I’ve taken for granted. Having come through the non-league system I understand how many good players there are in non-league and how lucky I am to be playing for a club this size.

To be honest, it’s something me, my mom, my dad and my sister probably couldn’t have imaged when I was 17 and doing a BTEC diploma in Sports Science and playing football with my mates at Farnborough. So to be where I am now, I certainly don’t lose sight of it and that’s the reason that every time I do play, I give everything because I know the privileged position I’m in to play at such a high level at such a big club. I feel like I’ve got much more in me and I really feel like I want to play at the top level and I feel like I can. This club has done that a lot over the last ten years and I want to be a part of that, hopefully next season. 

Have you always enjoyed being a winger and taking players on?

I was a midfielder in my early days actually. When I signed at Portsmouth, it’s rare that you see someone so young in the middle of the park because there’s probably a bit too much responsibility, so I got shoved on the wing because I had a bit of pace. I haven’t looked back since then really. The last couple of years I’ve played much more inside of the pitch, but I think I’m at my best when I’m out on the wing and I love to get in behind people and I know I can rely on my delivery. It’s a big part of my game and a part that I enjoy.

That one against one when you know you’re up against a left-back for 90 minutes and you’ve got to try and out-work them, out-run them and keep them guessing about what you’re going to do. That’s a part of the game I do enjoy. Saying that, I’m always happy just to be on the pitch and I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to. 

Who were your biggest inspirations growing up? Which players did you most enjoy watching and why? 

I grew up watching the Arsenal Invincibles team. I remember the first player that I really idolised was probably Jose Antonio Reyes. He scored a brace against Chelsea once and one of goals he hit with his left foot and it went into the opposite top corner. I remember that was the goal where I was like wow and I remember really celebrating that goal. That team of Thierry Henry and those sort of players, I loved watching them.

I used to go and watch Reading quite a lot actually as a kid just because it was close to our house. My uncle was a massive football head so we’d go to watch Basingstoke and Farnborough in non-league. My uncle was the one who took me to a lot of the matches. But going back to that Arsenal team, I remember going to a fancy dress party with a red mohawk in the middle of my head because of Freddie Ljungberg. Those players were definitely my earliest memories of football and having football heroes. 

We’ve seen you star in social media videos this season with Taylor Gardner-Hickman. Tell us about your relationship with him.

Tayls is a good, young lad. I like to give him a bit of stick, like most of the lads to be honest. He probably needs it but he takes it really well. He’s not the smartest, so it’s quite enjoyable when I get to do these videos with him because it makes me feel a little bit better about my own intelligence. It’s all good craic.

We’ve got some great young lads here at the club and they’re all well thought of in the dressing room and it’s important that you have a young group of players that the fans can relate to. They’ll be the future of the club. Look at Dara. He’s probably got another 12 or 13 years of professional football ahead of him. In my opinion, he could go down as a club legend. 

Watch Jed and Taylor Gardner-Hickman go head-to-head in a quiz in the above video.

You’ve spoken about a lot of the characters here at the club and character is certainly something we’re going to need a lot of in the last six weeks of the campaign. Are you confident the squad can handle the pressure? 

I hope so. I think we’ve shown that already this season. If you look at where we were after 17 games to where we are now, we’ve fought tooth and nail to climb up the division. The manager has come in and done an unbelievable job. It’s very intense but that’s the way it should be and we’ve been working really hard. We had that huge upturn in form when he first came in but we’ve stumbled away from home a little bit. Our home form has been amazing and we need to carry that on.

We’ve got players coming back from injury. Daryl Dike is coming into form and Brandon Thomas-Asante coming back into the fold too which is big for us. We’ve got to give it everything we’ve got. I think the fans can see that with the way that we defend. You’ve got the likes of Erik who is nearly 35 and he’s playing every minute possible. He’s hobbling through games. There’s him, Dara, Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win games. Okay Yokuslu making tackle after tackle and that’s what we need – everyone playing to their maximum.

With the squad we’ve got, I really believe that we can achieve something, starting with the Millwall game which will be tough and then going from there, we’ve got a few more home games which we know if we can win them and improve away from home, we’ll give ourselves a chance.

Just on that Millwall game, it’s a great one to come back to after the international break. It’s a club you spent over five years at and one which you have a lot of respect for, we’re guessing?

I’ve got a lot of good friends at Millwall. There’s a lot of great people at that football club, from John Berylson the Chairman to the ladies in the canteen. There’s a lot of great people I’ve known for quite a big part of my life so I’ve got a lot of respect for the club. I was good to them and they were good to me so it worked out really well.

I think I left at the right time for the club and for me. I’ve really enjoyed coming here and hopefully we can beat them next week when we return to action, but I’m not under any illusions how difficult it will be. I still speak to a lot of the boys there and they’ve had an amazing season and they added real quality in the summer. They’ve done really well. If anyone finishes above them, I think they’ll be in the Play-Offs. 

It looks like a huge game too doesn’t it for the race for the Play-Offs?

It’s a big game for both teams. We’re heading into it off the back of a bit of a sticky draw at Cardiff where we probably should have done better. Millwall had a disappointing loss against Huddersfield, but that’s how it goes sometimes. When you look at the highlights they’ll be disappointed they haven’t won that game. That’s what can happen in this league. We had it before the break where people probably expected us to win 5-0 against Huddersfield and Wigan. It’s never that easy.

We’re coming into this one having been amazing at home, but Millwall have been doing really well away from home. It’s a big game, but there’s a lot of big games coming up for both teams in the next few weeks. It is so tight that one game isn’t going to completely change your season, but we do know how important it is to win that game. 

Just finally, we’d like to ask you about your relationship with the club’s supporters. Almost instantly you became a fans’ favourite here. Is that something you thrive off?

Yeah I’ve loved it. The fans have been really welcoming towards me which really helps. It makes you feel settled straight away when the fans are on board with you. I think there have probably been a lot of West Bromwich Albion players who’ve been much more technically-gifted and much more talented than I am, but I pride myself on wanting the fans to see that I’m someone who gives everything every week.

At the end of the day, I was a football fan growing up and all you want to see from the players is them giving everything they can. I think they’ve seen that from me. Hopefully that carries on and we can win games and take 45,000 Baggies to Wembley. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s a day out we definitely want to try and achieve and something which would live long in the memory. 

  • Wallace