New West Bromwich Albion manager Roberto Di Matteo met the players he will be hoping to mould into a Championship challenging unit for the first time yesterday when the squad returned for pre-season training.
The Italian will be unveiled officially at a press conference this morning but has already got to work to prepare the Baggies for the push back to the Premier League.
The 39-year-old Italian and his backroom team of Eddie Newton, assistant head coach, and Ade Mafe, head of sports science, introduced themselves to the squad and conducted the first training session following their arrival from League One MK Dons.
Di Matteo was considered a gamble last summer when he was recruited by Dons chairman Pete Winkelman but they just missed out on promotion playing an attractive attacking brand of football.
Now the former Chelsea midfielder is relishing the challenge he faces with Albion.
“I’m very grateful to MK Dons and the chairman for letting me go to take up this opportunity,” said Di Matteo.
“The chairman had to be brave last season to give me a chance and it worked out well for both of us.
“Now, I’m very much looking forward to taking the next step with West Bromwich Albion.
“I’m very happy to be here, it’s a great club.
“I know there was a disappointment last season but I think there is potential to do very well here.
“Me and my staff can’t wait to started and get to work with the players, and hopefully be successful here.
“My philosophy is to play successful and winning football. We have our view on how we would like to achieve that success.
“I think that turns out to be a positive style of football and we’ll try to apply that to the Baggies this season.”
Di Matteo certainly has the squad to bounce back at the first attempt and he is convinced he has brought the right backroom staff with him to get the best out of the players.
“Ade Mafe has 13 years of experience as a fitness coach in the Premier League and Championship,” Di Matteo added.
“I’ve known him for a similar period. He’s very knowledgeable and is a good person to have around.
“Eddie Newton has played at the highest level and has done a lot of coaching. He shares the same philosophy about football as I do and he is very trustworthy and very fair.
“All three of us are very hard-working people, and that’s what you’re going to get from us.
“I understand expectations are very high, but there is a very good team here and we will try our best to go back up again.”
One of the first tasks facing the new Albion boss will be to sort out the future of several of his squad members, especially defender Paul Robinson.
The 30-year-old left back has already been the subject of a failed £500,000 bid from Bolton Wanderers and it has been reported that a second bid of £750,000 has been tabled by Trotters boss Gary Megson, who signed Robinson for Albion.
However, Albion value Robinson at £1 million and will reject any bids that don’t match that valuation.
Robinson has made it public knowledge that he does not want to spend another season in the Championship but Albion are prepared to play hardball over any transfer.