Gareth McAuley determined to play on at West Brom
Proud Gareth McAuley is determined to keep playing for Albion for as long as possible, and is looking forward to fighting for his place next season.
The 37-year-old aggravated a thigh injury in action for Northern Ireland this month, and is expected to miss part of pre-season.
But Albion’s medical team are confident he’ll return in time for the season-opener against Bournemouth in August.
Head coach Tony Pulis is eager to buy a new centre-back this summer as a short-term replacement for Jonas Olsson and a long-term one for McAuley.
But the evergreen Northern Irishman, who signed a 12-month contract extension in March, is still enjoying his football and he’s relishing the potential battle for a spot in the team.
“I want to get myself sorted,” he said. “Get into pre-season and try and get my place in the team next year, that’s my focus.
“I still want to play as much football as possible because it’s one of the best things you can do.
“I’m sure the lads (that come in) will add depth and quality wherever they can.
“It’s our job to turn up and fight for a place in the team.”
McAuley is the oldest outfield player in the Premier League and, with seven goals last season, he played a huge role at both ends of the pitch.
A first-team regular for six seasons since signing on a free transfer from Ipswich Town in 2011, he reflected on the effort it takes to keep going.
“It does make me proud to still play now to be fair,” he admitted. “When you think of the hard work, the sacrifice and commitment you put into it.”
“Firstly to get to the Premier League, I was 31 at the start and I’m still there now.
“It’s not just myself with the hard graft, also those at the club who get you in condition to play in the Premier League.
“I’m lucky enough that Tony (Pulis) and the other staff have been playing me the last few years.”
And the Northern Irishman has been backed to return to his usual high standards next season by Albion’s director of performance Mark Gillett.
“He’s a great individual and a great athlete,” said Gillett. “The greatest thing I can say about him is when we were working towards the Swansea game (on the final day of the season) there was a 25 per cent chance of him playing but he still travelled. That’s the extent of the man.”