Soccer

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Mel looks to European future

Published 16/01/2014|20:42

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Pepe Mel's first game in charge of West Brom is against Everton on Monday

New West Brom head coach Pepe Mel is convinced the Baggies can challenge for a place in Europe next season despite being warned there are no funds available for this season's relegation battle.

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Spaniard Mel was appointed as successor to the sacked Steve Clarke last week, with the 50-year-old - himself axed in early December after four seasons with Real Betis - handed an 18-month contract.

With Albion out of both the FA and League Cups, Mel's sole task for the remainder of the campaign is to keep them in the Barclays Premier League, with the club currently 14th and three points above the drop zone.

With his English minimal, and with Albion vetoing his wish to appoint fellow Spaniards to his backroom team, Mel appears to face an uphill struggle.

Throw in the fact Mel will not be allowed to spend a penny of the fee to be gained from striker Shane Long's sale to Hull, which could rise to £7million, and his hands appear firmly tied behind his back.

"It (losing Long) is something I was told would be a possibility," said Mel.

"But I'm absolutely certain there is enough in the squad, without Long, to stay in the Premier League.

"What's vital is my confidence is transmitted to the players, that they realise they are the stars of the show.

"I'm convinced things are going to go well here, and they (the players) are going to be a success.

"West Bromwich Albion have thought now, for a month, I am the best man for the job, which is important."

Asked as to where he thought he would be with Albion a year from now, a confident Mel pulled no punches as he said: "Fighting for places that give access to the Europa League."

More short term, and addressing Mel's position in the transfer market for the next two weeks, sporting and technical director Richard Garlick insisted the club will not be splashing the cash.

"It (the money for Long) is a lot in terms of the Premier League today, but we traditionally work on a model of topping up - short-term deals, loans, loans-with-options. I don't see that changing," said Garlick.

"We have a lot of players, good players, and Pepe is happy to work with those players.

"If there is a need to look to the transfer market then we will do so, but they will be loans or loans to options."

Appreciating the circumstances, Mel added: "West Brom are obviously not going to sign (Lionel) Messi, but there are players who can come here and do a good job.

"They have given me a list of players they are currently speaking to, and they're all very good players."

At least Mel has one ally in his corner, and that is close friend in former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, who advised his compatriot to take the post at Albion.

"I spoke to Rafa, who was a team-mate of mine at (Real) Madrid, and he really did encourage me to come here to England," added Mel.

"He told me the Premier League is the best in the world, and he was fortunate enough to have worked with two massive clubs in Liverpool and Chelsea.

"He also told me West Brom is a club that needs a lot of work, but has a lot of possibilities to be successful."

After watching Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Southampton from the stands as his assistants in Keith Downing and Dean Kiely took charge on a caretaker basis for the final time, Mel's first official game at the helm is against Everton at The Hawthorns on Monday.

Press Association

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