Belfast Telegraph

Irvine keeps believing

Boss Alan Irvine insisted abuse from West Brom fans would not force him to quit - but once again admitted the sack could be looming for him after his side lost 2-0 at Stoke.

The defeat was the Baggies' seventh in nine Barclays Premier League games and they finish 2014 in 16th place in the table, a point above the relegation zone.

Away supporters at the Britannia Stadium hurled flak at Irvine after the final whistle as he made his way towards the tunnel, and the Scot stressed in his post-match press conference he could understand them voicing their frustration.

Despite the vitriol, Irvine, only appointed over the summer, remains determined to turn things around for the club and is adamant he is the man to do so.

But at the same time, two days after saying he could not necessarily be confident he will be given the chance by the West Brom hierarchy, the 56-year-old has again conceded his future is out of his hands.

Asked if he still felt he would be in his job by the new year, Irvine said: "I hope so, but I'm not in control of that, so I don't know.

"I believe I am (capable of turning things around) and I think the players believe we all are as well.

"But obviously, it is other people who will make decisions as far as that is concerned.

"I want to carry on. I want to still do this job and I want to see it turning around, and that is not going to change."

Regarding the criticism he received from the stands, Irvine said: "I can understand that people are frustrated - I'm frustrated, and so are the players.

"I can understand fans expressing that frustration. That is the nature of the job.

"If anyone is to take it, I am the person that is standing there. I stand out there and I don't hide - I'm there to be shot it. And, obviously, ultimately I make the final decisions, so, certainly, I'm prepared to take the criticism."

He added: "I don't know if they (the fans) would have necessarily wanted me to acknowledge them (as he walked past them at the end).

"What do you do in those circumstances? I just walked down the tunnel.

"I am bitterly disappointed as well - it means an awful lot to me, and I know it means an awful lot to them."

West Brom had been putting in a creditable away performance - without converting it into goals - when Mame Biram Diouf broke the deadlock in the 51st minute with a shot that took a slight deflection off Joleon Lescott.

Gareth McAuley came close to equalising as he prodded the ball against the post just after the hour mark, and moments later, Diouf made it 2-0, Marko Arnautovic's shot ricocheting off the Senegal forward fortunately to deceive Ben Foster.

Giving his assessment of the game, Irvine said: "I was a little bit disappointed with our finishing, because we had got into good positions, but other than that, I was happy with the way we'd played.

"We'd probably dominated the game, created chances and I felt we just needed to be a bit more clinical in the final third.

"Then the first goal was difficult to take, particularly given there was a deflection. It was a blow, but we came back from that and obviously Gareth McAuley hit the post at 1-0.

"Then the second goal was a really hard one for the players to take, because that was a huge deflection. We hadn't made mistakes and yet we found ourselves 2-0 down, and that was hard for the players to cope with and recover from."

Stoke are up to 10th having registered back-to-back league victories for the first time this season.

The West Brom result also made for a second successive clean sheet for the hosts after 11 games without one, and Potters boss Mark Hughes was delighted.

"Back-to-back wins is really important, and clean sheets as well - that is really encouraging for us," Hughes said.

"It was difficult for both teams to be fair (playing so soon after doing so on Boxing Day), and probably in the first half we lacked a little bit of sharpness.

"But in the second half we showed more energy and then scored the first goal, which today I thought was always going to be very important."

Hughes admitted it will be a blow losing Diouf - now with six Stoke goals this term - to African Nations Cup duty in early 2015.

"It is a little bit frustrating," the manager said.

"We are going too miss him, but hopefully they (Senegal) get knocked out quickly!"

Hughes also revealed Potters forward Bojan Krkic - who had a role in both goals - had come off with a hamstring problem which will be assessed on Monday.

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