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James Morrison: Changing roles at West Brom was tough

James Morrison admits the transition from player to coach was an eye-opener – ahead of leading out his Baggies legends side tomorrow.

James Morrison of West Bromwich Albion arrive at the stadium before the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion at City Ground on April 18, 2022 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens - WBA/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
James Morrison of West Bromwich Albion arrive at the stadium before the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion at City Ground on April 18, 2022 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens - WBA/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Albion will honour Morrison and former team-mate Chris Brunt with a Clash Of The Legends fixture in aid of The Albion Foundation.

Midfielder Morrison, who played 341 games in 12 years at the club, retired from playing in October 2019 after his final game for the club in the Championship play-off semi-final defeat to Villa. The 36-year-old joined the club in May 2020 initially as under-23s assistant before a promotion under Sam Allardyce.

“At first, I found it difficult, you’re a bit confused about what to do,” Morrison said. “But the club have been great in allowing me to start with the Under-23s, which I fully enjoyed, and then I got a lucky break with Sam Allardyce, who wanted someone who knew the club. There’s no better learning curve than what I’ve had, and nothing prepares you for it, but you just learn on the way.

“You think it’s easy when you’re a player. Dealing with players is difficult, and learning to treat them as people and trying to divulge in that way, unravelling them as people and then learning what kind of player they are.

“I don’t feel like being a manager. I love being on the grass and being with the lads so I see myself doing that. I don’t fancy the stress of being a manager, maybe when I’m a bit older.”

Darlington-born Morrison is a popular member of Albion’s backroom staff and is visible in pre-match warm-ups.

Having retired at a relatively early age of 33 following a lack of desirable offers, Morrison believes age is on his side when it comes to dealing with certain situations.

He explained: “You’ve got to find yourself as a coach. Whether you want to be vocal or if you like to get close with the players, for example.

“There are lots of different ways. I did find that difficult at first because I’d played with many of the lads, and you’ve got to try and distance yourself when you’re a coach.

“One thing I’ve still got is that I still think like a player. I can feel how they’d react in certain situations. I think that’s useful to have on my side.

“I wasn’t getting any offers. Did I make the decision to retire too quickly? Probably yes. But I wouldn’t be in this situation now.”

Morrison was name-checked by boss Steve Bruce at Norwich for his role in the free-kick routine that led to Dara O’Shea’s opener.

“It’s nice to have a role, but we all pull together with the coaches and try and come up with stuff,” the former midfielder said. “We scored at the weekend with it. Set pieces are a big part of the game, so hopefully, we can score with a few more.”

Morrison’s ex-colleague and opposite number tomorrow Brunt, 37, meanwhile, is trying to find his own feet on the coaching ladder.

“I’ve just finished my Pro License (badges) with the IFA (Irish Football Association),” Brunt said.

“I started my badges years ago when Roy Hodgson was still our manager and carried along, never really thinking much about it until I was playing for Bristol City, where I got the opportunity through the IFA to do my Pro License in Belfast.

“I just got the certificate for it the other day, and I’m not really too sure whether that’s what I want to do or not; it was more about taking the opportunity. I’ve been doing bits and pieces with the 18s and the 23s and have enjoyed being in and around it, but I’m not really too sure.”

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