Jan Paul van Hecke knows a lot about Championship opposition after his successful loan spell with Blackburn Rovers last season.
So the 22-year-old defender will be relishing the opportunity to get more pre-season minutes under his belt when Albion continue their preparations against Reading today (3pm).
Van Hecke played for 45 minutes of our opening pre-season run-out against Union SG a fortnight ago and had another half hour against Estoril at the end of last week’s training trip to Portugal.
“I’ve enjoyed pre-season and hopefully I can take my chance to show the manager what I can do in the friendlies, but being around the first-team squad has given me a lot of confidence,” he said.
So did his spell with Rovers. Van Hecke picked up a foot injury a week after joining Albion last summer but Rovers were prepared to be patient with him when he signed on a season-long loan.
He made his third appearance for Rovers in a 2-0 win against today’s opponents but was sent off in his fifth Blackburn appearance – a 7-0 defeat to Fulham. After serving his suspension he played in every game for the rest of the season and picked up Blackburn’s Player of the Season award, the first time it had been given to a loan player.
“I loved it, because there was so many games. The schedule was crazy, you had to keep going especially if you were playing well,” he said.
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Albion’s opponents Reading have already faced Premier League opposition in pre-season, drawing 1-1 with West Ham United last Saturday. On Tuesday goals from Yakou Meite and Jeff Hendrick secured a 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon.
Hendrick is one of four signings made so far by Royals’ boss Paul Ince, joining from Newcastle on a season-long loan. They have also recruited Shane Long from Southampton and Sam Hutchinson from Sheffield Wednesday, both on free transfers, and Nottingham Forest midfielder Tyrese Fornah on loan. Today’s game will be the 101st competitive meeting between the clubs.