Welcome back to the American Express Community Stadium at the end of a very busy week in the Premier League with today’s visit from Leicester City representing our fourth match in 11 days.
We extend our welcome to Leicester City’s players, staff, officials and supporters, many of whom will have made the trip south from the East Midlands for this Sunday afternoon fixture.
It was just over a week ago that we entertained Leeds United - and, for a few brief but heady minutes, topped the Premier League table, albeit after just three matches and without the week-end’s fixtures being completed. It still felt good!
More seriously, our victory over Leeds represented another positive, high quality, and entertaining performance from our players against a confident side who had similarly started the new season well, and who had enjoyed a 3-0 rout of Chelsea at Elland Road just seven days earlier.
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Pascal Gross’ third goal of the season finished off one of a number of fine moves, coming as it did at an important stage of the game and during a good spell for our visitors. Another clean sheet and three more points completed an enjoyable afternoon for our club.
We expected a tough game against newly-promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage on Tuesday evening, and so it proved. A 2-1 loss was our first defeat of the season, our first away defeat for more than four months and our first reverse in London in seven games.
It’s to Graham, his staff, and our players’ great credit that we are recounting such statistics. That kind of record at this level, and particularly against the quality of opposition we face on our frequent trips to London, is yet another measure of the progress we continue to make.
So, although disappointing to lose to a Fulham side spurred on by their talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic, it was also a stark reminder of just how tough and unforgiving the Premier League can be. If you are even slightly below par, the game can very quickly get away from you.
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Tuesday's loss certainly shouldn't detract from another excellent start to our sixth season playing in the Premier League, and everyone at the club, not least Graham, his staff and our players, remain acutely aware we have a long season ahead of us.
As ever at the top level we will no doubt have to endure some more bumps in the road at some point too - that’s football! - but we can also look forward to a lot of good football, both here at the Amex and on the road.
You, our fans, have been in great voice in all six of our first team matches so far this season and we’re very much hoping that trend continues as we return to the Amex this afternoon. Thank you for your support so far. It is, as ever, very much appreciated by all of us.
Thanks also for supporting our requests to stay off the pitch, not bring flares into the stadium and to show respect to our stewarding and catering staff. All of our match day staff are there to keep you safe and to support you wherever they can.
As the season gathers momentum, we will once again be looking to engage directly with fans up and down the county, and further afield, through our fans’ forums hosted by our numerous supporter groups.
We look forward to these events and know that fans appreciate the opportunity to put questions directly to me, to our senior executives, and, of course, when he is free to attend, to the chairman too. Please look out for dates for the upcoming events.
It was a great pleasure to be at the official opening of American Express Elite Performance Centre 2 – the dedicated training facility for our women’s and girls’ teams - on Wednesday, when Tony Bloom was on hand to cut the ribbon. It was good to see so many people who played a part in bringing our dream of a purpose-built women’s and girls’ training hub to fruition. As you know, Hope Powell’s team kick off the WSL campaign at the Amex next Sunday against Reading, and the indications are we’ll have a big attendance there to hopefully help the team make a winning start.
Finally, it was good to be given an hour or so on Talksport’s morning show earlier this week. Jim White, Simon Jordan and Trevor Sinclair were on hand to talk all things Albion to a nationwide audience, and I’d like to thank those Albion fans who texted and tweeted their own questions.
Enjoy today’s match.
Best wishes, Paul