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Big Interview: West Brom midfielder James Morrison

WEST Brom are currently one of the hottest tickets in European football – and Baggie James Morrison says the show is only just starting.

Albion have hit 37 goals in 17 Championship fixtures and only moneybags Paris St Germain with their superstar team and Belgian’s Genk can better that in Europe’s top divisions.

The French millionaires have scored 45 in winning all 13 of their opening games in Ligue 1.

In Belgium, leaders Genk have got 39 in 15 games and second-placed Brugge are equal with West Brom on 37.

The Baggies’ 4-1 demolition of Leeds last Saturday – the first time Leeds had conceded more than two goals in a game all season – was powerfully impressive.

Albion changed the way they played, switching from a back three to four defenders and having six players in front of them all capable of scoring.

Top scorer Dwight Gayle didn’t even get a start but still came off the subs’ bench and contributed the best goal of the four with a smart backheel.

West Brom’s list of goalscoring big-hitters so far this season reads like this – Gayle 9 goals, Jay Rodriguez 8, Harvey Barnes 6, Matt Phillips 5, Hal Robson-Kanu 3.

Then there’s Kieran Gibbs (2), Kyle Bartley (1) and Craig Dawson (1) who have chipped in, plus two own goals contributed by Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.

Defensively, West Brom are still a question with big lads Dawson, Kyle Bartley and  Ahmed Hegazi looking less than lithe when asked to play the ball out like Franz Beckenbauer.

(Photo: PA Images)

It always looked an odd policy coming from Moore, himself a bouncer of a centre-half in a 600-game career across eight clubs.

With Tosin Adarabioyo replacing Bartley and Gibbs switched from wing-back to an orthodox left-back against Leeds, the defence looked more functional and a lot safer.

But in attack West Brom have lightning capabilities.

“We’ve got strong runners and playing on the break we can be really scary,” says Morrison.

Albion had hit a sticky patch prior to spanking Leeds and Morrison adds: “Not to get a win in four games and then put in a performance like that was huge credit. We got our game plan spot-on.”

Morrison, 32, has been at the Baggies for 11 years and since his £2.2m move from Middlesbrough he’s been involved in two West Brom promotion teams.

He knows what it takes and sees a familiar story unfolding.

This team, says Morrison, is as dangerous as any West Brom team he has played in.

He went up with Albion in his debut 2007-08 season, went down and then back up again in 2009-10 as West Brom boing-boinged around.

Kevin Phillips was Albion’s top scorer with 22 league goals ten years ago and then it was Chris Brunt with 13 eight years ago. Both Phillips and Brunt, who is still at the club, could be eclipsed this time.

“Dwight Gayle, his goal against Leeds,” recalls Morrison, “it was a lovely finish. That’s him. If the chance comes, boom, goal.”

West Brom’s club record 105 league goals in a season, set in the old Second Division in 1929-30, could be smashed as well.

“I always go back to the first season I was here,” says Morrison.

“We had four good strikers and they all chipped in with lots of goals and that was one of the reasons why we got promoted.

“The four then were Ishmael Miller, Kevin Phillips, Roman Bednar and Luke Moore came in towards the end on loan. Craig Beattie popped up as well with a few last minute goals.”

Phillips, Miller and Bednar were the main three, plus support from Zoltan Gera and Robert Koren, and Albion stacked up 88 goals to finish top of the Championship from Stoke.

“We’ve got similarities here in the current squad and it is important they share the load,” says Morrison. “All the lads we have are capable of scoring goals.

“We’ve got 37 in 17 games. It’s a great stat.

“Now we’ve got to keep going. When the chances come in this league you’ve got to take them. That was the difference between the Leeds win and what went before it for us.”

West Brom went one goal better in the 2009-10 promotion season under Roberto Di Matteo’s management, scoring 89 goals, one less than Newcastle who topped the Championship with Albion automatically going up with them as runners-up. Bednar, as he was under Tony Mowbray, was in the goals again with ten, three behind Brunt who had his best scoring season.

Koren was there again with five and Jerome Thomas (seven) and Graham Dorrans (12) got some as Morrison achieved his second promotion.

(Photo: PA Images)

Paris St Germain are averaging 3.42 goals a game at the minute with Neymar (10 goals, 11 games), Kylian Mbappe (11 goals, 9 games) and Edinson Cavani (8 goals, 8 games) running riot.

That’s what you get when your club is worth closing on a billion pounds. But can you get a decent Balti pie there?

West Brom average 2.17 goals a game.

Manchester City are on three a game, so are Borussia Dortmund, Barca are 2.83, Rangers 2.67,Chelsea 2.25, Juventus 2.16, Genk 2.61 and Brugge 2.47.

It’s good Baggies company.

“I think this Championship is strange,” says Morrison, who has won his own fight, coming back from a year’s serious injury to earn a one-year contract.

“Anyone can beat anyone in this league and that’s the excitement.

“We are fighting to get back into the Premier League. Any team looking at us, they’ll be scared of us when we are on our ‘A’ game.”

JOHN WRAGG

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