Graham Potter reflects on the season on and off the field in his final programme notes of the season.
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(Please note, these programme notes were written prior to Albion's 1-1 draw with West Ham due to print deadlines)
A warm welcome to Pep Guardiola, the players and officials of Manchester City and, of course, our fans, to the Amex for our final home game of the season.
I must begin by congratulating Pep Guardiola, his staff and players on their Premier League title. Manchester City have been the best team in the division by some distance this season and are fully deserving of the title of champions. They have produced an incredibly high level of football across all the competitions for a number of years now, which shows a determination and quality that is often overlooked. They have our full respect and admiration for how they play and compete, and once again congratulations to all at the club.
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As for tonight, we are delighted to be welcoming nearly 8,000 of our fans back to the Amex. Having 2,000 here for the home fixtures against Southampton and Sheffield United earlier in the season really lifted the players, and they’re all looking forward to playing in front of a bigger crowd this evening.
We were obviously delighted to secure our Premier League status with three games of the season to play, but we still want to end the campaign strongly. We’re not underestimating the task ahead of us tonight but we’ll be giving our all, both in this game and against Arsenal at the weekend, to try and better our points tally from last season.
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but I believe we have made progress as a group over the course of this season. We’re still a work in progress but I’ve been happy, overall, with the way we’ve played, the way the players have taken on board the messages we’ve given them, and their attitude both in training and in games. There’s also a real togetherness which we’ve harnessed, but there is still plenty of room for improvement – and we’ll keep working hard, both individually and collectively, to reach our goals.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tony Bloom, Paul Barber and Dan Ashworth for their tremendous support in what has been a testing season with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s wonderful to know that there’s such a strong bond at the club, both on and off the pitch, and that can only serve us well moving forward. I’d also like to thank my background staff for their unwavering support throughout the season and, indeed, the entire club staff for their professionalism during these testing times.
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Then, of course, there’s you, the fans. I know it’s been hard for you not to have that release of cheering on the team from the stands, but we’ve really felt your support from afar – and we just hope we’ve provided some solace and even escapism during these difficult times.
Elsewhere around the club, it’s been a fabulous season for our WSL side, who have finished in their highest-ever position of sixth in the table. Congratulations to Hope Powell, her coaching staff, and, of course, the players on such an impressive achievement. We now look forward to welcoming them to their new facility at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre next season.
Congratulations are also extended to Mark Beard and his youth team, following their Premier League Cup success, and to Shannon Ruth and Andrew Crofts, who have admirably stepped into the breach with the under-23s, following Simon Rusk’s departure to Stockport.
The pathway from the academy to the first team has continued again this season, with Ben White and Robert Sanchez the most notable examples, while a number of other players have stepped up for our cup games this season. As I have stated on many occasions, my coaching staff and I keep a close eye on all our young players and we hope to see them all make further progress next season.
Finally, our thoughts continue to be with those who have been directly affected by COVID-19. These have been unprecedented times but, with the success of the vaccination programme and restrictions due to be further eased this summer as a result, hopefully life will again resemble some kind of normality.
In the meantime, continue to stay safe, enjoy the summer and we hope to see you back at the Amex in August.