West Bromwich Albion captain Chris Brunt has delivered a damning verdict of Pepe Mel’s tenure at the club, revealing that the dressing room was ‘dead’ under the Spaniard.
Appointed Steve Clarke’s successor in January, Mel recorded a largely unimpressive three wins, six draws and eights defeats during his 17 matches in charge, with the club managing to secure Premier League survival on the penultimate weekend.
Nevertheless, despite signing an 18-month contract upon his arrival, the former Real Betis manager was let go at the end of the season, with ex-Preston North End boss Alan Irvine brought in as his replacement.
His hiring met with initial scorn from fans this summer, who were hoping for a more inspiring choice, Brunt, however, has credited the Scot with galvanising a side who were at ‘rock bottom’ under his predecessor.
‘It’s a million times different,’ he told the Birmingham Mail. ‘The spirit in the dressing room had pretty much died towards the end of last season.
‘The lads have been great this season and we’re working hard for each other and it’s a squad game more than ever now and you’ve got to support everybody around the place, whether you’re playing or not.
‘We’ve got a good vibe around the place and the lads are doing well together and if we can keep that going we will have a good chance this season.
‘He deserves a lot of credit. His sessions have been great, the training has been brilliant and the lads have been really up for it so that’s credit to him, Rob [Kelly] and Keith [Downing].
‘Last season was really poor and we are looking to lift that. We were pretty much at rock bottom when he took over and he has lifted us.’
Recording a 2-2 draw in their Premier League opener against Sunderland, West Brom have seen eight new arrivals this summer, with Brunt signalling out Sebastien Pocognoli and Andre Wisdom for particular praise after their weekend performances.
‘Seb played really well and Andre was pretty solid and they will grow into it as well,’ he said.
“Seb will get used to the English game. He would have used a lot of adrenaline in his first game but he was pretty strong and hopefully as the season goes on he will build on that.
‘Jason [Davidson] is there to give him a bit of competition too so we’re looking pretty decent at the back and hopefully we can keep that going.’