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West Brom v Watford - Match preview

Preparation for Albion’s home opener at The Hawthorns against Watford tonight has left no stone unturned.

Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

One of the key features of training over the last week at the club’s training base was a team meeting conducted by new director of medical Tony Strudwick.

Boss Steve Bruce has hailed esteemed former Manchester United, England and Arsenal medical chief Strudwick as one of his signings of the summer and admits he was blown away by everything the backroom staff member brings to the table, including his attention to detail and forensic knowledge.

During Bruce’s pre-match press conference, Strudwick reeled off historical athletic statistics in keeping with the context of a home Commonwealth Games. The stats? Fresh from Strudwick’s meeting, centred on top athletes at their physical peak.

“Tony Strudwick did the presentation and I it was like ‘where has he got that?’,” Bruce smiled. “He even showed Jesse Owens winning the gold medal in 1936. Do you know the guy who won the Commonwealths last week was the same time?

“That’s how good this fella was 80 years ago, and by the way on a cinder track, maybe the old clock was wrong!

“The four-minute mile, when Roger Bannister broke that in 1954, there’s 1,536 athletes who’ve broke that since.

“If I had Tony Strudwick in here he could give them all! I thought ‘where’s get that from?’.”

How do those intriguing figures help the Baggies at home to relegated Premier League outfit Watford tonight, or indeed in the gruelling Championship season ahead?

The key behind Strudwick’s talk was how athletes successful recover to go again – and again.

Tonight begins – as things stand excluding future cup ties – a run of 21 fixtures in 97 days before the Championship enters a month break for the World Cup in Qatar. That is a fixture every 4.6 days for Albion. Barely time to breathe.

“Who was the 400m runner in our era?” Bruce queried. “Ed Moses, he didn’t get beat for 12 years. How did he recover from those?

“It was basically about recovery and all the rest that goes with it.”

It is that kind of recovery and detailed preparation that could give latest recruit Okay Yokuslu, back at Albion for a second time on a permanent deal after a successful loan, a chance to feature tonight.

The Turkey international was expected to be sidelined until Thursday’s EFL Cup clash against Sheffield United but has trained well ahead of schedule.

Albion are also monitoring striker Daryl Dike, who was a substitute at Middlesbrough in the Championship curtain-raiser, but could be pushing to be in from the off.

Visitors Watford, back in the second tier having finished 19th in the top flight last term, are under the new management of Telford-born former Wolves defender Rob Edwards, appointed from League Two champions Forest Green.

They have been, however, able to keep hold of the majority of their big-hitters, particularly in attack, and Bruce labelled the Hornets’ forwards Joao Pedro – last week’s match-winner against Sheffield United – Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis as one of the best frontlines in the division.

Bruce said of the visitors: “Yeah, very good! They’ve got some pace at the top end of the pitch. We’ve got to play well to beat them, that’s for sure. They’re going to be there, like Middlesbrough, we’ll have to be at the top of our game.

“It’s the Championship, they’re all tough. As we’ve seen at the weekend, there were a few strange results – that’s typical Championship.”

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