"Anything can happen" at The Hawthorns tonight, says Ellington
Former West Bromwich Albion striker Nathan Ellington believes the Baggies’ Play-Off Semi-Final tie against Aston Villa is far from over, saying “anything can happen” in tonight’s second leg.
Ellington, who spent two years at Albion between 2005 and 2007, knows all about the pressure of big games, including the Play-Offs.
Ahead of tonight’s Semi-Final second leg at The Hawthorns, he believes a place at Wembley is still up for grabs for West Brom, despite the loss of Dwight Gayle through suspension.
“I think they’ll have to change things up slightly, but it’s a Play-Off game, it’s a one-off, so anything can happen,” he said. “There will be other players able to come in and provide that threat up front for Albion, we’ve seen how effective the likes of Jay Rodriguez can be, so there’s no reason he can’t do it on Tuesday.
“They can take heart from what’s been happening recently in football, there have been some unbelievable comebacks lately, so they have to realise that anything can happen. As we saw in the first leg, a bit of good fortune or a lapse in concentration can affect things. I think it’s important to get the first goal and take it from there.”
Having helped Albion to a Play-Off Final in 2006/07, Ellington says the experience has shown him the importance of taking things one game at a time – sound advice for his former club going into this evening’s clash.
“Hopefully we come out victorious because, when I was there, we got to the Play-Off Final, but lost against Derby. I’d like to see them get there again and win it,” he added.
“Losing that Final was the worst day of my career. Getting there and knowing that you played so well to get there, especially with the goals we’d been scoring on a weekly basis, we just felt we were going to go up. You start thinking about what could be, and maybe we didn’t think enough about the task in hand.
“To lose knowing that you were that close, it’s heart-wrenching, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! Unfortunately, someone will have to experience that.”
While a Play-Off Semi-Final alone is enough to motivate any player, Ellington believes that there are a number of sub-plots to Tuesday’s clash which makes it even more intriguing.
“That’s another added side, the intensity goes up even more in a derby,” he said. “Both teams have enjoyed time in the Premier League too, and deserve to be back there, so tensions will be higher than ever. The prize at stake, the derby element and the feeling of belonging in the Premier League, they’re major parts of the thought process going into the second leg.
“It’s all about who really kicks on. Usually, if you’re at the top but then fade away, it can be harder for you to win the Play-Offs from what I’ve seen. If you’re on the up and make the Play-Offs, those teams usually do well. We’re in it to win it – I still say ‘we’ when it comes to West Brom – so let’s see how it goes.
“You have to forget about what’s gone before and focus on the task in hand. West Brom have to do what they can to nullify Aston Villa and optimise their own game.”
As for Albion’s opponents, the former forward says Aston Villa will be a tough nut to crack at The Hawthorns, though home advantage could prove decisive for West Brom.
“Villa have been very impressive,” he added. “When you’re a team that comes down from the Premier League and has quality players around still, when you have a base like that to work from and then get on a run, it starts feeling easier to win. They believe they belong in the Premier League and have been on a good run, so they’ll be very dangerous.
“When you play at home, you’ve got an added incentive. It does add a bit of pressure to the away side, it can have an affect on your game as a player and that’s why you see teams win their home games. It’s 11 against 11, at the end of the day, so you have to stay concentrated for the full 90 minutes. Villa won’t be a team to take lightly.”