West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel walked into a political minefield on his first night as Baggies boss, yet he insisted he had no qualms about selecting striker Nicolas Anelka for the 1-1 draw with Everton.
Conducting his postmatch interviews in English, the Spanish tactician stressed he was not tempted to drop Anelka following the decision from the club’s shirt sponsors, Zoopla, to withdraw from their agreement with the club after the French striker’s quenelle goal celebration at West Ham last month.
“For me, Nicolas is a very good professional and a very good person. I need Nicolas in the team,” stated Mel. “I spoke to him yesterday and asked him if he was ready to play and he said he was. My obligation is to think about football and the best interests of West Bromwich Albion.
“If he is suspended [by the FA] then I won’t be able to play him, but at the club we must just think about winning matches.”
Mel doubtless suspects he has not heard the last of the Anelka controversy, but he was eager to promote the success of his first night as Baggies boss, as the side fought back to claim a valuable point against a side pushing for a top four finish in the Premier League.
“It was a good night,” added Mel. “Today is a long day for me as I have been working since 8 a.m. this morning to get ready for the game but the end is beautiful. The result really is a very fair one. The first half we were too open and the second half we were too compact.
“In the first half, we made lots of errors and we were too open. This could have cost us the game, but thankfully we were able to talk about them at half-time. It was very good first step.
“Everton are a strong side, but we go away from here thinking we did a good job. It was a difficult match for me and my team. I told the players it was possible at half-time and it was.
“I am very happy for my [the West Brom] fans. They supported the team so well and in the end, we got the reward with a goal. This is only my first week and I need to work with these players. I am very happy to be here at West Brom.”