van Hecke celebrates a year of progress

12 months since his first Premier League start, Albion's Dutch defender is happy with what he’s achieved – but is aiming for much more.

By Bruce Talbot • 22 January 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Jan Paul van Hecke joined Albion in 2020.

Jan Paul van Hecke is proud of the progress he has made as he prepares to celebrate a year since his Premier League debut.

The defender admits he had to become mentally tougher in the first half of last season after he returned from a successful loan spell with Blackburn but couldn’t force his way into the team.

Since debuting in the 2-2 draw at Leicester City on 21 January 2023 he has made a further 22 starts including 15 this season as he establishes himself in the team.

“Every footballer needs setbacks to become stronger mentally because it’s not easy to come into a Premier League team,” he said.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jan Paul van Hecke has made 35 appearances for Albion.

“The way we play you need to do a lot of things as a centre-back, so I look back on the last year as being really good for me personally in terms of my own development.

“It has sometimes been tough because I always want to play. But I backed myself and this season I think I’m a better player and stronger mentally and physically and I’m proud what I have achieved so far.

“I had good games at the end of last season and then I went to the U21s Euros with Holland and came back for pre-season training in good condition. I told myself “I need to be really fit” and I felt strong and confident. I wanted this season to be my season. I have been playing games which has built confidence and I feel comfortable.”

As well as helping Albion compete on three fronts van Hecke is ‘dreaming’ of a place in the Netherlands’ squad for this summer’s Euros.

“I am being spoken about which shows that you are doing well,” he added. “It would be a dream to go to the Euros or play for the national team. I know there are already a lot of good centre-backs so it’s hard competition and I need to keep improving to get a call-up. All I can do is keep playing well, improving and hope it comes.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Jan Paul van Hecke has made 15 Premier League appearances so far this campaign.

van Hecke won’t lack for support if he faces Wolves at the Amex on Monday. Around 50 family members and friends from his home town of Arnemuiden.

“I have three brothers and they come nearly every week to my games but 50 people are coming by bus on Monday. If it had been on Saturday it would have been 150 in three buses!,” he said.

“My brother Guus had conversations with the ticket office and they were really helpful, because I knew I couldn’t have got 50 tickets on my own! I’ll meet them all afterwards, or the day before the game. They will love the experience. hopefully as much as I will.”