Conor Townsend: West Brom squad has 2020 feels
Albion’s Conor Townsend feels dressing room parallels with the promotion-winning crop of 2020 – but insists there is no pressure this time around.
Carlos Corberan’s side have put themselves in contention among the Championship sides mixing it for a place in the Premier League, despite continued off-field uncertainty.
Left-back Townsend, 30, was a member of Slaven Bilic’s runners-up in 2019/20, when the Baggies successfully limped over the line for an automatic spot. Albion tackle current Championship leaders, Leicester City, at The Hawthorns this lunchtime.
Asked about feeling similar pressure, he said: “Probably not. The year we went up there were us and Leeds. It was really us two who set off quickly and we were the favourites. I don’t feel like it’s that sort of pressure now, it’s a little bit different.
“There are parallels in terms of how we feel in the dressing room. I feel like we’ve got a really good squad, the manager is great, we’re all very confident at the minute and I feel like we’ve got a good enough team and staff to have a really good go at it.”
Townsend added: “I’d say the big difference is outside the club. I don’t think there is the expectation that there was back then, and that might help us in the long run.
“Before the season it felt like everyone just wrote us off. They’ve seen what’s happening with the club and instantly thought we were going to be nowhere near it.
“We don’t listen to what’s going on outside. We’re confident in what we’ve got hopefully we can continue this run and get close to it.”
Albion were a few years into the Guochuan Lai era during Bilic’s run to promotion. A return to the Premier League was a boost for the coffers but immediate relegation, and limited parachute payments due to that, have played a role in Albion’s plight under the Chinese controlling shareholder, who is negotiating to sell the club.
Townsend, the 2018 signing from Scunthorpe United made 30 appearances in all competitions during the promotion season, including 27 in the league, with Kieran Gibbs and Nathan Ferguson also full-back options.
Now Albion’s vice-captain, Townsend – one of the club’s longest-serving players – feels a similar atmosphere and confidence around the place under Corberan to that of Bilic four years ago.
“It’s right up there, along with the Premier League (promotion winning) season in how comfortable the squad is and how confident we are as a team,” he said.
“There is obviously a long way to go and there are a lot of twists and turns. So we’ll just keep rolling, keep picking up results, keep the form going and hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Townsend made 25 appearances in the Premier League the following season, his only top flight campaign, which were almost exclusively played behind closed doors as the Baggies were unable to retain their status.
The left-back admitted he feels he was “robbed” of the full experience of Premier League football as the pandemic kept supporters away and made logistical, day-to-day life difficult.
He added the opportunity to experience a ‘proper’ top flight campaign acts a motivator to those in a similar boat to himself.
He added: “The Premier League season we played, was the only season personally I’ve played in it. I feel like it was robbed from me a little bit because of Covid.
“It is what it is, and even the promotion night we had fans turning up to the stadium, but it was an empty stadium and it wasn’t the same. We felt like we’d been robbed a little bit that night.
“For the lads who had that, we want to experience it properly. For the lads who haven’t, they want to experience it anyway.
“Everybody wants to get back to the Premier League, it should be a Premier League club and we’re doing our best to get it back there.”