West Brom V AFC Bournemouth at The Hawthorns : Match Preview

11 August 2017 07:34
Tony Pulis: West Brom need stability to continue their progress

Tony Pulis hopes he can take West Brom to the next level after signing a contract to remain as head coach until 2019.

The Baggies boss, whose previous contract ran until the end of the 2017-18 season, has been rewarded with a new deal after guiding the club to the top-half finish in the Premier League that owner Guochuan Lai demanded when the 59-year-old received his last extension in October.

Pulis arrived at The Hawthorns in January 2015 and is keen to carry on his good work. And he sees the club's academy as an important part of the future.

"I'm delighted to extend my contract because it continues the stability within the club which is essential for its progress," said Pulis, whose team get their Premier League campaign under way at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

"I've said all along that we are in a building phase which requires a step by step process. I think we've seen an improvement all across the club in recent seasons and we must continue that in what is such a tough, tough league.

"It's important we push the club and try to keep pushing it forwards, and part of that is that we maintain the development of our young players within the academy.

"I believe that there's a tremendous talent pool in there, and if that talent cannot be realised immediately within our own ranks it is vital we get them out into league football to continue their development and education.

"But I do believe in the future of these young players and that's an important part of the development of the club, especially with the incredible rises we are seeing in prices within the transfer market."

Gareth McAuley and James Morrison will miss West Brom's opener through injury.

Summer signings Jay Rodriguez, Zhang Yuning and Ahmed Hegazi are all in contention to make their debuts for Albion.

Meanwhile, Jermain Defoe will forever carry the "special feeling" of his close bond with Bradley Lowery as the veteran England forward prepares to make his Premier League debut for Bournemouth.

Bradley, the football mascot whose beaming smile touched thousands of people around the world, died last month aged six following his battle with a rare cancer.

Defoe had struck up a close bond with Bradley during his time playing at Sunderland, having since left on a free transfer in the summer following relegation from the Premier League.

The 34-year-old was among the mourners at Bradley's funeral held in his home village of Blackhall, County Durham, where thousands of people wearing football shirts had lined the streets, and remains in contact with the family.

Defoe recalled some of his memories of time spent with Bradley, who had the rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma, in an emotional interview with BBC's Football Focus ahead of the start of the new campaign.

"That story of Brad's is just special, my best friend, it was genuine. He loved his football, he loved me, I loved him. There was nothing I could give him, apart from being a friend," Defoe said in a clip from the interview on the BBC Sport website.

"I was on Facetime last night with his Mum, Dad and brother, it was quite funny. Obviously it is still difficult for them, but it is nice to still be in touch.

"Even towards the end when he was really struggling and couldn't really move, I would walk into the room, he was in bed and he'd just jump up and his mum was like 'he's not moved all day'. For me it was a special feeling."

The bond between Defoe and Bradley saw them lead out the England team at Wembley for a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania in March.

"That was the best, even being down the tunnel. He was looking for me, like he does, then he came and gave me a cuddle and Joe Hart said to me 'J, you walk the team out'. For Harty to do that, that was special," Defoe recalled.

"Then we walked out, and just standing there, singing the national anthem with Brad, on Mother's Day, and being back involved in the England squad, actually playing at Wembley and scoring, for me that was one of the best moments of my career."

Defoe is expected to lead the Cherries attack on Saturday, having rejoined a club he once played for on loan during the 2000/2001 campaign when still very much a raw talent.

As well as bringing in the veteran England frontman, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe as also been able to acquire the services of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Nathan Ake, in a B#20million deal, from Chelsea as the south-coast club step up their ambitions to become established among the Premier League elite.

Source: PAR