I’d like to start by thanking everyone who sent me Birthday wishes on Monday. As you can probably guess, the best present I received was the result and team performance against Huddersfield later that evening.
We obviously changed a few things around for the game and I have been asked about that this week, but for the players it wasn’t a new or unfamiliar system. The back three has always been an option for us – we used it in my first season and second season – and we have the players who can fit into it.
But it isn’t the system that wins you matches. I have already said that I felt we beat Huddersfield on Saturday and Sunday when I saw the intensity and fire in training. By that, I mean that it was the work we put in and the zone we got ourselves into that led to us dominating the game in the way we did and securing the victory.
I must say, our supporters were also fantastic. Not only did they raise the atmosphere at kick-off, but they also remained patient and applauded us off at half-time when it was 0-0, which I can tell you didn’t go unnoticed in the dressing-room.
The fans saw the effort, the willingness and the dedication that the players had put in, and their support gave us that extra motivation to keep pushing in the second half until eventually we got the goal we deserved.
Obviously the three points were the priority, but our defensive performance as a team gave me just as much pleasure.
The fact that we didn’t give away silly balls, didn’t give them space either in front or behind our back line, and restricted them to hardly any attacks on our goal. And that gives the whole team a big boost.
We were also physically dominant against Huddersfield, and we know we must show similar physical qualities against West Brom, who are a big, tough side.
But that is the minimum. The physical strength, the high tempo, and to repeat that hunger and desire. I watched Cristiano Ronaldo score for Real Madrid in the Champions League this week and he celebrated like crazy, as if it was his first goal in the competition rather than his 106th.
Then he scored another from the penalty spot and sprinted in to retrieve the ball and get the game started again – desperate to try and score a third. And that is part of the reason why he is as great as he is. That hunger and consistency, day in, day out, to stay at the top.
On Saturday, we must show the hunger to produce the level of intensity we showed against Huddersfield. After the disappointments at Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle, we are desperate to reward our devoted away supporters with a result and performance they can be proud of.
Have a safe journey if you are travelling to The Hawthorns.
Come on you Irons!