West Brom v Swansea preview: Proud moment for proud father James Shan
Last week, James Shan became a father for the third time, but the unpredictable nature of football has a habit of ruining plans.
Under normal circumstances, he would be focused on baby Riley’s first week in this world but after Darren Moore’s shock sacking on Saturday night, Shan has been thrust into the limelight.
“That’s the ugliness and beauty of football,” he says. “How quickly it changes. It’s going to be a fantastic experience.”
Over the past few days Shan has been in charge of getting Albion ready for an important game against Swansea. Fortunately for him, he has an understanding partner.
“I’ve always been involved in football while I’ve been with her so she understands the nature of the job and how things can turn,” he said.
“You can plan to be home at 5pm and not get home until much later. The baby’s beautiful, just like his dad! 8lb 2oz.”
Shan is a proud father of three boys, but tonight he gets to be a proud coach too.
Having joined Albion in 2006 as under-7s coach, he’s worked his way up through the ranks before being promoted to first-team coach under Darren Moore.
He’s one of the men that make Albion tick, and despite receiving no assurances yet about his future, he’s determined to relish this opportunity.
“It’s obviously going to be a proud moment,” he said. “I’ve been coaching for 18 years now. I started working at a primary school coaching kids for a Birmingham City community programme.
“When Darren took the caretaker role on I didn’t really get a sense of pride or understand the magnitude until after the event.
“One of the big ones for me was going to Old Trafford facing one of the most respected managers in the world (Jose Mourinho) and Darren put in a game plan that gave us three points. At the time it was just like another day at the office.”
Whether Shan’s stint in charge is one game, two games, 10, or 13, he’s determined to make it count.
“Do I feel I have the skill-set to deliver on Wednesday?” he asked. “Of course I do. I have a lot of belief in how I work and what I do.
"In terms of tactics, it'll be a gameplan to deny Swansea and exploit Swansea.
"During the last eight months we've played three or four formations and that gives us a good platform to manoeuvre what we do.
"I'll be taking bits and pieces of what we've done and fusing it together."
He will be backed by a skeleton staff of under-23s coach Jamie Smith, and goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh.
And Shan hopes he can build on the platform left by Moore for the new head coach.
“We have to move and we have to get three points,” he said. “We’ve got two important games before the international break.
“When the new head coach will be appointed I’m not sure, but we have to make sure there’s another six points contributed towards gaining promotion.”
Kieran Gibbs will be unavailable with a hip problem while Mason Holgate and Hal Robson-Kanu face late fitness tests.
Subs: Bond, Bartley, Adarabioyo, Townsend, Harper, Livermore, Johansen.
Swansea (4-2-3-1): Nordfeldt, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Carter-Vickers, Roberts, Grimes, Dyer, Celina, Routledge, James.
The opposition - Graham Potter perfoming magic with one hand behind his back
Swansea were relegated last season alongside Albion, but have not ditched their head coach this season despite being down in 15th.
That’s because former Baggies player Graham Potter is widely regarded to be impressing in his first season of management in English football.
The Welsh side have sold the family jewels around him, and left the 43-year-old to patch together a team based primarily on promising young players.
Despite being eight points off the play-offs, Potter’s working magic with one hand tied behind his back.
His arsenal will be even more depleted tonight, with star striker Oli McBurnie currently out ill.
And Swansea have the small matter of an FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City this weekend to keep an eye on.
However, Potter insists that will not affect his preparation for tonight.
“The Manchester City game doesn’t come into my thinking in terms of preparing or selecting the side (at Albion),” he said. “We are at the back end of the Championship season, we have an important game on Wednesday, that’s the challenge.
“In an ideal world maybe you would want it to be a bit different, but we play Friday, Wednesday, Saturday and we have focus on West Bromwich Albion.
“That’s our next match and we want to play well and try and win. Once that game is over then we can start to think about Manchester City.
“They are both big games, one game is an opportunity to get to the semi-final of a major competition, the other game is a chance to keep in that hunt and keep our season going and win a game of football in the Championship, which is important for us with the stage we are at with our team and the development of our players.
Potter is expected to play the pacy Dan James up front with McBurnie absent.
James was the player Swansea nearly sold to Leeds on January deadline day before pulling the plug at the 11th hour.
“I think the idea would be the combination of his pace and his combination play,” said Potter. “Oli has sometimes maybe lacked that ability to get in behind people.
“He certainly gives you that and he can run over from central out wide. He gives you a bit of movement, a bit of fluidity in the front four and I think it’s something he can do.”
Playing James up top means Bersant Celina is likely to feature in the hole behind the striker.
George Byers faces a late fitness test on a groin problem and club captain Leroy Fer is currently sidelined with a hamstring problem.
Swansea have had an extra day to prepare for this fixture, having played against Norwich City last Friday. They were beaten 1-0 at Carrow Road by the leaders.
What the boss says
"There’s definitely been some sadness because of the man and character Darren was. But the focus has swiftly and naturally turned to this game."
Coincidentally, Darren Moore’s first game as caretaker was a home match against Swansea. He halted a nine-game losing streak with a 1-1.
Albion's key man
Getting Dwight Gayle firing on all cylinders will give Albion a good chance of cementing their play-off place, but they need to do it quickly.
Swansea's danger man
When he’s in the mood, Bersant Celina is capable of producing moments of brilliance. With seven goals and five assists this season, Swansea will look to him to create their attacking chances from the No.10 position, especially with top scorer Oli McBurnie out ill.