‘We’re in good shape’ – Shan

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Albion’s first-team coach Jimmy Shan declares the Baggies squad “in good shape” as they build up their preparations for The Hawthorns derby against Birmingham City.

The Friday night Sky Bet Championship clash could see Albion move within four points of the top two albeit for 24 hours.

But in the chase for promotion, every advantage counts and the man who will be going for a third win in a row since assuming charge of first-team affairs says the squad is well set for the challenge.

“Training has been excellent,” says Shan. “We gave the boys some time off last week which was needed but enjoyed three good days of work. I was delighted with the tempo of Thursday and Friday and today we have begun to drip feed into the sessions information for our game plan against Birmingham. It’s going really well.

“This will be a very very similar challenge to the first match at St Andrew’s. They have a clear way of doing things, very structured with plenty of physicality and a real threat from the two boys up front. Depending on their selection, there is creativity in the wide areas and I think it’s fair to say we found it difficult against their organisation in the first game. They were a very well drilled and organised team.

“It’s a local derby and that will bring a fantastic atmosphere I’m sure but one for us to all look forward to.

“We’re looking in good shape in terms of our availability. We’ve got Matt Phillips continuing his recovery this week and Ahmed Hegazi is back from Egypt after a training trip. We just need Stefan (Johansen) and the younger lads who are with the England age group teams back and we will have some good numbers.”

Shan has been making his plans content with the support group around him which has seen coaches Jamie Smith and Deon Burton joining him in the dug-out, along with experienced goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh, while the Club’s Academy boss Mark Harrison has provided another pair of eyes delivering information from the stands.

That has helped deliver back-to-back wins against Swansea and Brentford but not stopped inevitable speculation about Shan recruiting more help into his coaching stable.

But he is full of praise – and confidence – for the figures gathered around him.

“I realise there has been some talk in the press about a senior figure coming into help but I am very happy with the team we’ve got here leading up to Friday’s game,” he said.

“I’m enjoying the responsibility and making the decisions and I am getting good information from the coaches around me. It’s a very confident team.

“We shouldn’t forget Jamie Smith had a lot of games at the top level and has a 12 year coaching career already behind him. We’ve worked together at different levels and we have a really good relationship.

“Deon Burton has over 600 games behind him and international experience and he’s developed a good relationship with the players in the dressing room. He’s got the right personality for that environment.

“I’ve got Gary Walsh (goalkeeping coach) and Nick Davies (fitness) who have also got invaluable experience so I’m more than happy with the team around me and its capability to deliver what is being asked of us.”

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