You were in the middle of a relegation battle when you arrived at West Bromwich Albion and you needed immediate results. How do you approach a challenge like that?
Results can only come one way and that is making sure that players understand their jobs on the field and are well prepared for the matches ahead. You also know that when you are at the bottom you lose more games than you win so you have to make sure that the players have the right attitude towards the manager and the right focus. Most importantly we need the work and preparation for a match where you find yourself at the top or the bottom. That takes place on a training field and that’s where as a coach you need to have a good effect upon the players.
Your players spend a lot of time on the training ground and you seem to have very well organised teams. Can you explain your philosophy when it comes to training?
The philosophy is very simple. You need to make sure that players are ready to do what they are paid to do which is why everyone comes to watch them on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. There are several components in that performance in the physical aspect where training needs to take care of. More and more we can train ourselves on the tactical elements and the psychological elements to make sure that when people go on the field they are ready for what they are going to be confronted with and they feel comfortable knowing they can deal with it.
How did you think you are able to make such a quick impact and go on and unbeaten run immediately after you joined the club?
Sometimes victories and good results generate their own momentum so as a coach I am never 100% sure why a team is having a good run or why a player is in a rich vein of form. You just hope that this form will continue. You just hope that whatever the players are doing or you are doing is the players are doing will have the same effect. It has a lot to do with one’s experience and the experience of the players. One is dealing with these is a very important factor. I also think there is a definite element of desire, ambition, and determination – all are all pretty obvious words. Also other words like being prepared to work, being prepared to show the right character, being prepared to make a special effort, possibly for somebody else to get him out of trouble. All of these are very good qualities. These are all qualities that we are trying to produce in our players. If you are lucky enough to find a group of players who can give you that, then you can do great things.
What are your aims now for the summer, which areas are you looking to improve?
Well it’s a bit early of course and the team has done very well. I wouldn’t want to say anything on camera that would suggest being disrespectful to any of the players. I will confine myself to say that we are looking to try and strengthen in all areas because this is the first season after coming up and gives us a second successive Barclays League season and we all know how difficult that is these days when you come up from the championship to get two seasons in a row. We also know historically that the second season can be harder than the first. So we have to move forward possibly to stand still. We will be working hard to make sure we have a squad next year which is every bit as strong if not stronger than the squad we had this year. Hopefully the experience the players will take into next season will do us some good.
How will you try to keep hold of players like Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt?
Luckily they are under contract, so that’s not a great problem for us. We are working very hard to make sure they are happy at the club, and we will do our very best to ensure that. We are a club with a very healthy economy. The chairman has a very clear idea of the direction that the club wants to go in. He is certainly more interested in retaining our players than selling them. So players like Odemwingie and Brunt who have long term contracts, I expect them to stay at the club.
You were named LMA manager of the year this time last year. How would you reflect on the last 12 months as a manager?
It has been strange. Before collecting the award, which is a great accolade because it is voted for by your peers and people understand the degree of difficulty of your job, we had to go and play in the Europa League Final which we lost in extra time which was disappointing. Then there was the excitement of joining Liverpool and then losing that job early in the new year. That was a fairly strange experience it has been brought back into context I suppose by the fact that I bounced straight back into the Barclays Premier League again and fortunately tasted success again with West Bromich Albion.