Baggies ready for busy summer

West Brom have confirmed that James Morrison, Gareth Barry and Boaz Myhill will not be offered new contracts following the club's play-off defeat.

The Baggies failed to make an immediate return to the Premier League following last season's relegation when they were beaten by Aston Villa earlier this week.

Albion are still searching for a new head coach after parting company with Darren Moore in March – Jimmy Shan working in a caretaker capacity for the last two months.

Technical director Luke Dowling said of the released trio: "They've been great pros. They're at an age and stage in their careers where we have to offer them contracts by the third Saturday in May, it's the rules and regulations. We have to do that with any out-of-contract player.

"But the door won't be completely shut to them because we'll wait for me to have a conversation with the new head coach to see if he would like them to be part of his plans next season. If he does then negotiations will start if they haven't signed for another club."

Wes Hoolahan and Tyrone Mears have also been released after their season-long contracts came to an end.

Dowling added: "On behalf of everyone at Albion I'd also like to thank Wes and Tyrone who, when they came in and played, were great.

“Walking away from the ground on Tuesday evening [after losing on aggregate to Villa] I thought from start to finish it was a night to be proud to work for West Bromwich Albion.

"I've only been here since September but I'm not sure it's been the happiest of places over the past few seasons. But that's something we need to change. We will do our upmost behind the scenes to change that."

Meanwhile, Aston Villa and Derby County will meet in the Championship play-off final on Monday 27th May. The Villans are 8/13 to secure promotion, with the Rams available at 13/10.

Grealish hopes to make amends

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish says his side have to make the most of their return to Wembley for a second successive Championship play-off final.

Villa edged through 4-3 on penalties against neighbours West Brom after their semi-final tie had ended locked at 2-2 on aggregate, with the Baggies winning the second leg 1-0 at The Hawthorns after losing out 2-1 in the first leg at Villa Park.

That gives Grealish and his colleagues an opportunity to make amends for a 1-0 Wembley defeat at the hands of Fulham just under 12 months ago.

Grealish told the club's official website: "It's massive to get there again. I was part of it last time, we know how it feels to lose. I have the experience of it.

"It's no good going on a good run and then going to Wembley and falling at the final hurdle again. I truly believe we can get promoted."

Meanwhile, Villans boss Dean Smith admitted to be being disappointed that, although a Wembley return had been secured, his side had lost for only the second time in their last 15 games.

He added: "We deserved it, but the disappointing for me was not winning. I couldn't believe we lost the game, that's our (second) defeat since losing at Brentford in February."

Villa will play the winner of the tie between Leeds United and Derby County, with the former holding a 1-0 lead heading into their home second leg at Elland Road.

The Villans are 5/6 to be promoted to the Premier League, with Leeds available at 5/4 and Derby 12/1.

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Smith vows to go on the attack

Dean Smith has said his Aston Villa side will not sit back on their 2-1 lead when they travel to face West Brom in the Championship play-off semi-final second leg.

Smith watched as his side recovered from going a goal behind to a Dwight Gayle strike in the first half at Villa Park on Saturday as two goals in the space of three minutes from Conor Hourihane and a Tammy Abraham penalty handed Villa a slender lead for Tuesday's trip to the Hawthorns.

And, while some teams could be tempted to set up defensively in a bid to try and protect their lead in the second leg, Smith is adamant that will not be the case for his players.

The former Brentford and Walsall manager, who expects to have a full squad at his disposal, told the club's official website: "I won't be sat behind the ball as much as Albion were. My aim is to go and win the game. We'll be looking to score more goals.

"I said before that the tie couldn't be won in the first leg. We've given ourselves an advantage, but that's all it is. We've got to go and perform at The Hawthorns now.

"It'll be a different game. I can't see them playing how they did (at Villa Park).

"We've got to go there full of confidence. There's a lot of belief in this team, that's for sure."

Villa, who lost the play-off final against Fulham 12 months ago, are 31/20 to win and 2/7 to qualify for the final, while West Brom are 15/8 to win and 5/2 to book their place at Wembley.

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Rafa spells out Rondon wait

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez accepts that it may take some time to sort out the future of loan striker Salomon Rondon, who has impressed for the Magpies this season.

The 29-year-old Venezuela international has scored 11 goals in the Premier League this season, playing a big role in helping the Tynesiders pull well clear of the relegation places.

However, Benitez says that his own future needs to be sorted before any decision can be taken on Rondon, whose parent club West Brom will also need to be consulted.

He told reporters ahead of a season-ending trip to Fulham: "I will see what he is saying, I talk with him every day. Everybody is really pleased because he has played really well for us, he was a key player in our achievements.

"It's very easy to say we have to sign him, but still we have to decide what is going on with me.

"Obviously he has to wait and see what happens with West Bromwich Albion, so all these things will have to wait a couple of weeks and after that we will know.

"With me, it's just common sense, because with another manager he might want to change Salomon Randon, so it depends on these things and after you can move forward."

Rondon can be backed at 7/4 to score at any time on Sunday, with strike partner Ayoze Perez available at 21/10.

Perez has scored five goals in his last four games, including a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory at home to Southampton.

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Shan tells Albion to buck up

West Brom caretaker boss Jimmy Shan has warned his players to buck their ideas up for their Championship play-off semi-final against neighbours Aston Villa.

Shan was speaking after seeing the Baggies round off their regular season campaign with a 3-1 defeat at Derby County, who claimed the fourth and final play-off place for themselves in the process.

The Rams move on to face Leeds United, while Shan is seeking to reignite the spark in time for the showdown with the Villans.

He told the Express & Star: "We need to make sure we prepare in training and perform a hell of a lot better than that to have some success against Villa.

"I spoke to the players and there was some honest assessments. Maybe, having cemented our place for so long and having the play-offs round the corner, sometimes that can act as a bit of a distraction.

"That distraction has gone now, there's no excuse and we know exactly who we're up against."

Albion claimed a 2-0 win at Villa Park in mid-February, when Hal Robson-Kanu and Jay Rodriguez were their goalscorers, while the meeting of the two sides at The Hawthorns ended in a 2-2 draw in early December.

The Baggies are 5/2 to gain a draw in the first leg of the play-off semi-final at Villa Park on Saturday, with the visitors 10/3 to keep a clean sheet.

Meanwhile, West Brom are 21/20 to reach the play-off final, with Villa available at 7/10.

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Lampard says Rams underdogs

Frank Lampard said his Derby County side would be underdogs when they take on Leeds United in the Championship play-off semi-final.

In his first season in management Lampard has guided the Rams to a final place of sixth in the Championship, a position they confirmed with victory over West Brom in the last day of the Championship regular season.

It means a home leg against Leeds United next Saturday followed by the return game at Elland Road on the 15th May.
 
It will be Derby's fourth play-off opportunity in the last six years, the other three ending in disappointment and Lampard said his side would be underdogs this time against a Leeds side who finished third, nine points ahead of the Rams.

Lampard said afterwards: "We're underdogs. I don't want to think about anything past Leeds. They're a fantastic team.

"They will be two massive games for us. We've got our work cut out."

The former England international said it was a great achievement to secure a play-off alongside Leeds, Aston Villa and West Brom.

West Brom were already sure of a place in the top-six ahead of their trip to Derby but the home side needed a victory to be certain and they took the lead through Martyn Waghorn after 20 minutes.

The Baggies equalised early in the second half, Stefan Johansen getting their goal but Derby went back in front through Mason Bennett and three minutes later sealed victory with a contentious penalty converted by Harry Wilson.

West Brom, who finished fourth and play local rivals Aston Villa in the semi-finals, were dealt a blow with Hal Robson-Kanu sent off meaning his participation in the semi-finals is in doubt.

Derby are 6/4 to win their home leg next weekend with Leeds 17/10 and the draw is priced at 12/5.

Leeds are 15/8 to get promotion via the play-offs while Derby can be backed at 9/2.

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Shan stays in place for Baggies

West Brom have confirmed that Jimmy Shan will remain in place as caretaker head coach for the remainder of their Championship promotion push.

Shan took charge of the Baggies just over a month ago following the sacking of Darren Moore and has guided Albion to four wins out of six after taking the helm.

And his efforts have been rewarded by being handed the reins for the final four games of the Championship season and the play-off matches which are almost certain to follow.

Albion are currently in fourth place in the table and are nine points clear of seventh-placed Middlesbrough with just four games to play.

Technical director Luke Dowling told the club's official website: "Jimmy has fully earned this opportunity to take us through to the end of the campaign.

"He has earned the support and confidence of the players and he has the backing of everyone to push on now and take us forward with momentum.

"Jimmy has impressed everyone with the way he has tackled the challenge. He is confident in his abilities and he has convinced us all that our best prospects for promotion lie with him overseeing the first team."

Next up for the Baggies is a visit from Hull City on Friday, with the hosts priced at 5/6 to win the game and 15/2 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline, with a 1-1 draw available at 6/1.

The meeting of the two sides at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season finished 1-0 to the Tigers, with Fraizer Campbell scoring the only goal of the game.

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Neil cools Albion rumours

Preston North End boss Alex Neil has played down speculation linking him with the managerial vacancy at the Lilywhites' Championship rivals West Brom.

The two teams meet at The Hawthorns on Saturday as the Baggies step up their search for a replacement for the axed Darren Moore.

Former Hamilton Academical and Norwich City boss Neil is the favourite to succeed Moore, but when asked about the rumours, the Scot would only say: "I'm manager of Preston and people will talk as much as they want to talk.

"I'm here to do a job and my focus is on Saturday's game."

West Brom are currently under the caretaker charge of first-team coach James Shan and 10/11 to beat Preston and 3/1 to be promoted this season. They are currently fourth while North End are 12th after losing their last three matches.

Shan said of the situation: "I haven't read too much into who's been speculated. You always have speculation around a club of this stature. The club are going to attract some big names and some good names.

"Over the years, Alex has done a fantastic job.

"We're in a professional industry and you tackle one game at a time. Alex has done a very good job there and they're within a shout of getting in and around the play-offs. His focus, no doubt, will be the best possible job he can do for Preston."

Roberts drools over Whites’ win

Tyler Roberts claimed Leeds' promotion bid is back on track after producing one of their best displays of the season in Friday's 4-0 win against West Brom.

Marcelo Bielsa's men put their promotion rivals to the sword at a sold out Elland Road as Pablo Hernandez's 16th-second opener, a brace from Patrick Bamford and a late effort from Ezgjan Alioski fired the Whites back to the top of the table.

However, it was Roberts who picked up the man-of-the-match award after an all-action display, in which he provided two assists against his former club.

Norwich and Sheffield United could go back above them over the weekend, but Roberts is confident that Leeds will be in the automatic promotion places at the end of the season if they can keep producing Friday night's performance.

"I think for this season, the team performance is up there," said Roberts on LUTV.

"After the loss [at QPR] on Tuesday it just showed the character that the team has got, along with the fight that we have.

"Our main objective was to set the pace from the start of the game and it definitely showed, by going up one nil up that early."

Roberts added: "It all came together and it showed with the result, it had a little bit of extra spice being against my own team and to get a good performance against my old team was pleasing to show how much I have come on and how much Leeds have improved me.

"We have a bit of relaxation over the weekend now, hopefully results go our way, but if we keep doing, what we keep doing, it won't matter about other results."

The fight for automatic promotion is now looking like a three-horse race with Leeds 4/11 to be promoted, while Norwich are priced at 3/10 and Sheffield United are 1/2.

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Bielsa maintains Whites belief

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has urged his side to continue to believe in their attacking qualities, following three losses in their last seven Championship games.

Despite the slight misfire, the Whites can move back to the top of the table with a win at home to West Bromwich Albion on Friday evening, with Bielsa telling his players to stick to the methods which have worked well for much of the campaign to date.

He told reporters at his pre-match briefing: "You can't train efficiency (in front of goal), but you can train the capacity to create chances to score.

"For me the fact that the team always deserves to score has huge value. I am happy when we score goals, because we deserve to score goals.

"And I don't make any conclusion when there is no correlation between the number of chances and the goals, or when it's the opposite."

Bielsa is hoping for a big reaction to the 1-0 reverse at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday evening, when United drew a blank for the first time in nine league games.

Their meeting with the Baggies at The Hawthorns in November of last year ended in a comprehensive 4-1 victory for the hosts, with Pablo Hernandez netting a last-minute consolation for Leeds.

That victory made it four in a row for Albion against the Whites, who are 5/4 to win the game on Friday evening and 8/1 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline.

Meanwhile, Leeds can be backed at 8/15 to secure promotion this season.

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