West Brom v Aston Villa: No split loyalty for proud Darren Moore
Tomorrow's Albion-Villa derby will be a special night for Baggies boss Darren Moore – because both clubs helped forge his love for the game.
Moore was raised in Handsworth, the area that spans the short four-mile stretch between The Hawthorns and Villa Park.
On Saturdays, he could sometimes be found taking in the action at Villa Park, but in the week he would be watching through the fence of his school as Albion’s first team were put through their paces.
“I watched the Villa because they used to give free tickets to our school,” he revealed, in the build-up to this match. “So I went down to watch them. But obviously then my career took off [so I stopped].
“What a lot of people don’t know is that my school, Holyhead School, had a new astroturf pitch so Albion used to train there when the weather was bad.
“That was the one time when I used to miss my school dinners – and I love my food! – because I used to go and watch them play and train.
“I remember Colin West, Don Goodman, Gary Strodder, Paul Raven, all those players trained at our school on a regular basis.
“There wasn’t one time when I didn’t miss them train. The size, power, precision and detail of the players was something special for me growing up as a kid.
“I used to stand and watch them from the school fence and thought if I grow to be as big as them, I could play football. I’m actually bigger than them now!
“I’ve always felt a connection to West Brom from day one really.
“Those moments are special in terms of bringing us to where we are today.”
Moore may have attended games at Villa Park as a child, where his brother David was an apprentice, but his school was less than a mile from The Hawthorns.
And he has now been associated with the Baggies for 11 of the past 17 years. It is a club that has been with him throughout his life.
He enjoyed success, promotion, and cult hero status as a player before climbing the coaching ranks through the academy and all the way up to the top job.
His already enormous chest will swell with pride on Friday, not because of the opponent, but because it’s his first derby as Albion head coach.
“There’s a sense of honour and pride already steeped into me,” he said. “It’s a special moment again on Friday, it adds to it again.
“But for me, my pride and allegiance is at West Brom, this is where I’ve played, this is where my history has been created.
“I’ve had success and promotions here, been a part of wonderful memories here. It’s an honour for me, being a local here, being a head coach for that game.
“It’s another special moment for me. I’m looking forward to the game, as I do with all games for West Brom.”
Being from the area, Moore is ready for what is coming on Friday night.
“I don’t need to say much to the fans because I know what the game means to them,” he said. “They’ll be in here in full voice, they’ll make it a white hot atmosphere.
“I know they’re passionate for the Albion, I know why it’s nearly a sell out.
“I don’t need to gee it up anymore because it’s already in the stomach and the bellies of those coming on Friday.”
He’s not the only one at Albion who understands what this means to the fans, but his only regret is that he’s no longer playing.
“You’ve got James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Boaz Myhill in the squad, people who know what these types of games are about,” he said. “They’ll let the players know what type of game this is.
“I used to love playing in these games, they’re special games to play in.”