Downing excited by Mel appointment
Published 10/01/2014 | 12:12
Keith Downing is relishing "exciting times" for West Brom as he prepares to hand the reins over to new head coach Pepe Mel after Saturday's trip to Southampton.
Assistant head coach Downing has done a stellar job steadying the ship since Steve Clarke's sacking last month and will aim to bow out on a high at St Mary's, before Spanish coach Mel takes over next week after signing an 18-month contract on Thursday.
Albion sit 14th in the Barclays Premier League, four points above the relegation zone, after a creditable run of three draws and a win under the likeable Downing.
Mel's appointment is an intriguing one, with the 50-year-old having never worked outside of his native Spain.
However, the former Real Betis boss fits Albion's criteria due to his history as a coach, rather than a traditional British manager, and his reputation for playing attractive football.
"It's exciting times and an appointment that's gone full circle," Downing said.
"I'm pleased it got settled and there's someone in place on an 18-month contract, which brings the stability that's needed.
"It's been unsettling, particularly in the last week with a lot of rumours flying around. The players try to get on with things and I wasn't sure if I was focusing on the Southampton game or whether the appointment was going to be made earlier."
He added: "I haven't had chance to meet Pepe yet, I'm going to meet him over the weekend. I'm aware he is going to be at the game against Southampton and then we'll crack on next week.
"I've heard good things about the job he did at Real Betis, when he got them up into La Liga and stabilised them. The Spanish press like him. It's a name I wasn't aware of until a few weeks ago but he plays exciting, attacking football."
Much will be made of Mel's reported lack of English but Downing foresees no major problems.
"My Spanish is worse," he said.
"It'll be an interesting time. We're aware he'll need some help in terms of translations but football is a 'universal language' and we look forward to some different ideas."
The caretaker boss admits Mel's appointment is a gamble - but no more so than any other.
"Any appointment is a gamble, you're never sure," he said.
"I always look at the positives. There will be new ideas, his own slant on it and it'll be exciting times."
Mel was an early frontrunner following Clarke's sacking but reportedly fell from favour due to disagreements over his backroom staff, with the Spaniard apparently keen to bring in his own team while the club wanted Downing and goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely to remain in their roles.
The matter appears to have been settled and the pair's future looks secure, although reports in Spain claim Mel still may bring in his own men in some capacity.
"I'm not aware of that," Downing said.
"I know there are rumours flying around but I trust the club to do what they have over the last five or six years. I'm here to support the football club."
Downing will be without full-back Billy Jones again for his last game in charge.
Jones has had an operation on a recent injury to his eye while fellow defender Goran Popov (neck) is out. Recent absentees Youssouf Mulumbu and Victor Anichebe are back in training but unlikely to feature.