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West Brom V Bolton at The Hawthorns : Match Preview
Published : 18 Nov 2011 16:19:29
West Brom head coach Roy Hodgson admits he is more focused on a crucial run of fixtures before Christmas than holding discussions over his own future.
Hodgson's current deal runs out in the summer and the club's sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth intimated this week that talks over a new contract will take place in the new year. But Hodgson is in no rush ahead of a month he admits will define whether West Brom will be relegation candidates or contenders for a spot in the top half of the Barclays Premier League.
He said: "There is no rush from a club point of view or mine (over the contract situation). "I have not got itchy feet and am not touting myself around for a new job. "People know what I do here and there is plenty of time to talk about that. It is not bothering me at the moment. "Pulling away from the relegation zone is more important than worrying about my future."
The Baggies have had a tough start fixture-wise to the campaign and have already taken on Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - and lost all four games. But before Christmas Albion will host Bolton - Saturday`s opponents - and Wigan as well as visiting QPR and Blackburn.
Hodgson said: "We are entering a very important period and the next batch of games up to Christmas are going to be the important ones.
"They will show whether we can get close to the top half of the table or if we are doomed to be fighting in the bottom half. "We had a tough start fixture-wise. We started so badly in terms of points so I think we are pretty much now where we could hope to be. "But people tend to divide the Premier League up and there are more teams in the next run of games that people will be expecting to be in our sort of (area in the) league."
Albion will give a late fitness test to strikers Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie, who have been suffering with knee injuries. But midfielder Paul Scharner is again ruled out with a knee problem.
Manager Owen Coyle has warned Bolton prospect Joe Riley the hard work starts now as he prepares for his second Premier League appearance. The 20-year-old right-back had a debut to remember in the 5-0 victory over Stoke two weeks ago, earning a standing ovation from the Reebok Stadium crowd when he was substituted late on. That performance has ensured he will retain his place for the trip to West Brom, where another win would be enough to lift the Trotters out of the bottom three.
Bringing through players from Bolton's academy is something Coyle is very keen to do, and he is confident others will follow in Riley's footsteps. The Trotters boss said: "He did himself a power of good in the Stoke City game and I've always said if players do well for me then they'll get that opportunity again. "It's a boost for everybody at the football club, particularly the academy because they've worked hard.
We're desperate to get our own young players coming through, and there's two or three others - Josh Vela, Adam Blakeman, Michael O'Halloran, Rob Lainton - Joe's not alone. "We think there's a number of them that can have big careers and it's a question of bringing them in at the right time. "Joe was ready to play, he got his opportunity and what he has to do now is kick on from that and not think he's arrived because he's played one good game.
He's got to do that consistently, but it's great to see." The thumping of Stoke lifted the pressure off Coyle's shoulders temporarily but he knows it will be straight back on should they lose to West Brom, who sit four places and two points ahead of them.
"West Brom are a very good side led by a fantastic manager so we know we're in for a tough afternoon, but we also know we have good players and a very good team, and we have to go and show that and look to win the three points," said Coyle.
"At the moment they're above us in the league so we have an opportunity to leapfrog them. The onus is on us following on from the Stoke game." Bolton will be without Ricardo Gardner after he picked up a knock.
West Brom V Bolton - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.