Baggies boss Valérien Ismaël immersed himself in the culture of West Bromwich Albion on Friday afternoon when he took an extensive tour of the football club.
First stop, The Albion Foundation, where he received an overview of the charity’s operation from Director Rob Lake, who introduced him to key staff before inviting the Frenchman to join a powerchair training session in the club’s sports hall. He duly obliged and spoke afterwards of the “humbling and thought-provoking experience”.
Next step, the academy. Ismaël, guided by Lake, arrived at the dome to take in an under-14s training session; meeting Academy Manager Richard Stevens and other key members of the staff, including Head of Coaching Mick Halsall and under-18s boss, Leigh Downing.
A short walk up and across Halfords Lane during a busy school run and Ismaël was inside his new home, The Hawthorns, for the very first time.
He visited his new office ‘The Everiss Suite’ and took in a history lesson on a father-son duo who dedicated their lives to Albion. Taken aback by Fred Everiss’ 46 years as secretary/manager, his jaw dropped on learning son Alan served the club from 1933 to 1999.
A short walk away “Val” – already feeling at home – arrived at the first-team dressing room for a portrait shoot with club photographer Adam Fradgley. But by now, two legends were waiting…
As Ismaël walked out the tunnel for the very first time he was greeted by two Albion greats - Tony Brown and Chris Brunt. A fascinating chat followed, with “Bomber” and “Brunty” explaining what it meant to them to play for the club, while Val offered some insight on how he intended for his Albion side to play. More on this in the coming days…
But Ismaël had arguably his most important meeting of the day to come – yes, perhaps even more important than the “Bomber”. For until now he had not met a supporter. Up step the Deeming and Fielding families who gave their new boss a welcome fist bump and received the club’s new home shirt – launched just 22 minutes earlier – in return. Of course, they got them signed.
Now, for another photoshoot, this time alongside Chief Executive, Xu Ke, who then introduced the Head Coach to employees in the club’s East Stand offices.
All of this on just his second day in the job, during a busy pre-season schedule.
When asked how he thought the day had gone, Val replied: “Fantastic. I love it here already!”