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Sam Allardyce: Win it for the West Brom fans

Sam Allardyce has promised Albion’s fans he and his players will give everything they have got to beat Wolves tonight.

West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce
West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce

In a season that is likely to end in relegation for Albion, the boss knows winning both Black Country derbies will be a source of pride for supporters in a campaign where there has been little else to cheer.

A side transformed from February onwards, Allardyce is confident heading into tonight’s game that his team has what it takes to cause Wolves problems.

But he knows Nuno Espírito Santo’s men will be no pushover – with the 66-year-old wary of a backlash after Wolves were battered by Burnley last weekend.

Sean Dyche’s struggling team ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Molineux.

Wolves’ display in that match was way below the standards Nuno and the club’s fans expect.

And with Wolves having also been beaten in the reverse Black Country derby back in January, Allardyce is expecting to face a wounded animal tonight.

“What sort of mood will we catch Wolves in?” Allardyce said.

“They can be very, very, good on their day.

“But, as we saw against Burnley, they can be caught out.

“I think if we choose our tactics carefully we can cause them a lot of problems and get the win.

“I hope we restrict them to two shots on target like Burnley did.

“But I think it will be a different game to Wolves versus Burnley because it’s a local derby and there is a lot more riding on it.

“We all understand the importance of derby matches. Of course, we can draw off what Burnley did against Wolves.

“But I would think there will be some kickback in two ways.

“One, because the manager will be getting right into them after losing 4-0 to Burnley.

“And two, because it’s a local derby, this means so much – not just to us but to all the fans.

“That is why we are going to be doing everything we can to beat them again, to do the double.”

Nine points from safety with just five games remaining, everyone – including Allardyce – knows Albion’s hopes of staying in the Premier League are very slim.

But if, or when, relegation is confirmed, it is still going to sting everyone associated with the club.

For Allardyce, the thought of playing matches having already been relegated is too much to bare.

And he says that is another reason why the Baggies have to win tonight.

“We have got to keep our slim hopes alive and win the derby,” he said.

“If we can do that, I’ll be satisfied.

“But the message to the players really is very simple. It’s win.

“They will be given clear instructions on how to win. We aren’t going to go gung-ho.

“It’s about doing the right things in and out of possession.

“And then we need Mbaye (Diagne), Matheus (Pereira) and Callum (Robinson) to be deadly, be it with the final pass or cross or finish.

“I can honestly say all the lads have tried their best up to now to keep this club in the Premier League.

“We have tried our best – myself and all the coaching staff and the backroom staff.

“We have all given our all to get the players to maintain our Premier League status.

“We might well fall short but it hasn’t been for the want of trying.

“And we will keep going. We can keep our hopes alive by beating Wolves, so let’s go and do it.

“I’d absolutely hate to go into the last few games with our fate sealed.”

Despite arriving in December, it wasn’t until February’s visit of Manchester United that Albion truly started to play like a team in the Allardyce mould.

The Baggies should have won that day but ultimately had to settle for a point. And with the exception of one poor performance at Leicester, they have gone on to play well in the nine games that have since followed.

With the team undoubtedly on an upward curve, many pundits have said the Baggies have simply run out of time to survive. But Allardyce doesn’t agree, with the boss believing a lack of cutting edge up front will ultimately be the reason if they do drop into the Championship.

“You can hardly say you are being thrown in at the deep end when you are asked to take over a struggling club in December,” the former Bolton and Sunderland boss said.

“There wasn’t any more time, unfortunately.

“I thought we changed as much as we possibly could, as quick as possible.

“In the window, people say we could have made our signings (Robert Snodgrass, Okay Yokuslu, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Diagne) earlier – they say we should have got them in the earlier part of the window rather than the latter part.

“But that was almost impossible because we were only looking for players to sign on loan.

“Because of the position we were in we couldn’t afford to buy them.

“The four players we brought in have made a massive difference.

“I think we did better business than any other Premier League football club in January.

“You look at the quality of the player, the price of the player, based on our budget, and the difference they have made to the team.

“We could say we needed more games or more time but we didn’t really need it.

“When I look at the games before the wins against Chelsea and Southampton, we should’ve won three or four more games.

“So we did have time. But we failed to take the clear-cut chances we created.

“Burnley, Man United, Everton – I still don’t know how we lost that game – Fulham, Newcastle, it went on and on and on.

“It was a great disappointment.

“I was travelling home on the coach or driving home, and I was absolutely gutted because we weren’t going to get any credit for how we’d been playing because we hadn’t won.

“That was a fact until we shocked everybody by beating Chelsea 5-2.

“But there were plenty of games before that where we were in a position to win but we failed to do so.”

Up until the age of 15, Dudley-born Allardyce grew up as a Wolves fan.

He would also go along and watch Albion because Baggies defender Roger Minton was a family friend and would give him complimentary tickets.

Allardyce says he now sees himself as a Bolton Wanderers supporter – the club that gave him his big break when he was a player and also where he enjoyed eight hugely successful years as boss.

He knows his connection with Wolves is a difficult one for Albion fans to swallow. But he wishes they could be at The Hawthorns tonight to watch his side secure a victory over their great rivals.

“Derbies are where fans are missed most,” Allardyce added.

“The tingle, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“You want to hear the songs the fans are singing because you’re in a winning position and you know you’re going to send them home happy.

“You want to give them that win so they are the ones taking the mickey out of the fan at work who supports the other team.

“We want to make sure the West Brom fans wake up on Tuesday morning and they are the ones heading into work – whether that is on Zoom or in the office – with the bragging rights.

“It’s Wolves. At The Hawthorns.

“We have to get out there and give everything we can to win this game for them.”

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