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West Brom keep the faith in McAuley as he nets new deal

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley is set to sign a new deal with West Brom.

The 37-year-old's current contract is set to expire in the summer but talks are nearing a conclusion that will see him sign a 12-month extension.

McAuley has played a significant role in Albion's success so far this campaign, playing every minute of every game as West Brom have become surprise contenders for European football ahead of today's Premier League clash against Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns.

"Gareth has been fantastic and we're very close to agreeing a new deal," said Baggies boss Tony Pulis.

"He continues to put in performances that have been special for someone his age. He's been absolutely fantastic for us. He's had a great season.

"Hopefully it will be an extension for another year which I'd be absolutely delighted to do for Gareth.

"You shouldn't use the word freak, but his fitness levels and the way he deals with his life off the pitch is just first class. There's no reason why he can't carry on for another year for us.

"He's such a wonderful lad as well around the dressing room. He's the block you want to build your club around. He's one of those building blocks and a wonderful character and lad."

McAuley is also West Brom’s joint-leading scorer along with striker Salomon Rondon after netting his seventh goal in last weekend’s win against Bournemouth.

Pulis added: “I know he’s getting recognition for the goals he’s scoring, he’s been very good. He had a spell where you could actually say he cost us a few goals, but he’s got through that and I think everyone has those spells.

“He’s knuckled down and played a bit safer in certain areas and has been fantastic.”

The Larne man, who hopes to earn his 71st cap in the World Cup qualifier against Norway on March 26 at Windsor Park, says his team-mates like to mention his advancing years.

“The lads remind me all the time about my age. They call me a freak. They are always asking me if I’m a secret trainer or demanding to see my passport,” he said. “It’s only because I can do everything they’re doing and I don’t have extra days off.

“When you get over 30 you’re being written off. If you make a mistake people say your legs have gone. That drives me on.

“I’ve still got that desire to be competitive and get better. When you get a bit older you don’t know when your last game is going to be and you do start to appreciate it more.”

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