West Brom's Matt Phillips enjoying life under Valerien Ismael

He has caught the eye playing in a new role as a central striker.

Matt Phillips with Karlan Grant and Darnell Furlong
Matt Phillips with Karlan Grant and Darnell Furlong

And Albion’s Matt Phillips admits he is thoroughly enjoying pre-season under new boss Valerien Ismael.

The 30-year-old has spent the vast majority of his career playing on the wing.

His versatility has ensured Baggies fans have also seen him fill in at central midfield and at wing-back.

But it’s as a central striker that Phillips has so far impressed under Ismael.

The Scotland international caught the eye in that role during the pre-season friendly at Woking.

He then netted both the goals as Albion secured a 2-0 win in a behind-closed-doors clash against Sheffield Wednesday.

And Phillips says Ismael’s – and his clear counter-pressing philosophy – has given everyone a lift during pre-season.

“I’ve really enjoyed pre-season so far,” the former QPR man said.

“From day one, the manager and his staff have been instilling their philosophy and I feel like the group already understands what is required.

“Each training session, each day and each game that we have, that’s continuing to improve.

“The manager has been very good with me, as have his new staff and Mozza (coach James Morrison).

“It was very clear early on that we were all on the same page and there’s a clear mentality.

“As I say, I’ve been really enjoying it and I’m determined to make sure it’s a successful season for everyone at the club.”

Ismael is a boss who demands his team’s press with intensity high up the pitch. For that, Albion’s players know they have to be supremely fit.

But while Phillips admits pre-season has been intense, he says that is what is needed to be ready for the opening day clash at Bournemouth.

“I feel very fit,” he continued.

“I looked after myself during the summer and pre-season training has been intense.

“We’ve all got plenty of important minutes in already through the friendlies we’ve had and there are still a few games to come, starting at Watford on Saturday.

“We should all be ready to hit the ground running when we play Bournemouth on the opening day.”

Phillips says playing well in pre-season has given him confidence heading into the new campaign.

“I managed to score two against Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week and scoring goals, whether it’s in friendlies or in competitive games, gives you plenty of confidence,” he added.

“It was good to get on the score sheet, but more importantly, I think the group will have gained confidence from winning our games and keeping clean sheets in the process.

“We’ve applied ourselves properly and we’ve tried to apply the manager’s philosophy in our game. We’re trying our best to do everything he is asking of us.”

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