West Brom ‘lucky’ to stay in Premier League, defender claims

In the wake of Pepe Mel’s departure, Baggies defender Gareth McAuley has lifted the lid on much of the turmoil surrounding the Midlands club.

West Bromwich Albion’s fans and players will no doubt be delighted and relieved to have avoided relegation from the Premier League, but one man not getting too carried away just yet is Gareth McAuley.

A 2-1 defeat to Stoke City at the Hawthorns meant that the Baggies ended the season with one win and four defeats from their final five fixtures – a run that ultimately cost Pepe Mel his job, with the Spaniard departing the club by mutual consent this week.

It could have been far worse for the Midlands club though, had one of the three sides below them picked up any kind of form as Cardiff, Norwich and most notably Fulham failed to get points on the board when it mattered most.

And McAuley is keen to stress exactly this, downplaying the 'success' of staying in the top-flight during an exclusive interview with the Express and Star.

“It’s been difficult, so to still be in the Premier League is a good achievement, but in a way we were probably lucky that there were three teams worse than us,” he told the news provider.

The former Ipswich Town man pointed to poor communication and a lack of discipline within the squad as the two main reasons behind the slump which saw West Brom just three points off the relegation places, having finished the previous season in eighth.

“We had the frustration that we didn’t understand completely what we were being asked to do,” he said.

McAuley was keen to point to the difficulties involving language barriers, with Mel requiring a translator throughout his time at the club, while the defender also expressed dissatisfaction at the influence of aide Dave McDonough, who tried to educate players using computer analysis.

However the 34-year-old was also eager to stress that the team shouldered much of the blame for what has been a poor campaign, citing external influences and distractions as a major problem.

He told the Express and Star: “Players should be concentrating on football, not other things.”

The quotes certainly suggest there was trouble brewing at the Hawthorns and while McAuley remains coy on the exact details, Mel’s potential replacement Malky Mackay could have a tough task on his hands should he move into the West Brom hot seat.

The former Cardiff City manager has emerged as the favourite to succeed the Spaniard, having settled his legal dispute with the Bluebirds.

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