Scotland: Morrison glad to escape WBA ‘soap opera’

James Morrison looks ahead to Scotland's forthcoming friendly clash with Poland. Picture: SNS
James Morrison looks ahead to Scotland's forthcoming friendly clash with Poland. Picture: SNS
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JAMES Morrison is relishing a brief respite from his domestic strife in the Black Country while he undertakes international duty for Scotland this week.

The West Bromwich Albion midfielder doesn’t mince his words when he reflects on a tumultuous campaign with his relegation-threatened club.

“There just seems to have been a lot of s**t going on, really,” said Morrison. “It does feel like a soap opera – you should try being involved in it.”

Steve Clarke was sacked as West Brom manager in December and his Spanish replacement Pepe Mel has already been subject to rumours of dismissal after just seven games in charge without a victory. The club have also attracted unsavoury headlines in the wake of striker Nicolas Anelka’s controversial “quenelle” goal celebration gesture which earned a five-match ban and £80,000 fine.

Little wonder that Morrison is relieved to have a change of scenery for a few days as he hopes to win his 30th cap for Scotland in tomorrow night’s challenge match against Poland in Warsaw.

“It’s been one thing after another at West Brom with managers changing and people getting suspended,” he added. “It’s probably hassle that we didn’t need. There was even talk of the new manager going last week.

“It’s not been ideal but the lads have been great. We are all pulling together. But it’s good for me to come away and join up with the Scotland squad. It’s a different mindset – a different environment. That’s good for you trying to get a bit of confidence.”

Morrison admits he was taken aback by Clarke’s departure from the Hawthorns. “I didn’t see that coming,” he said. “We lost to Cardiff away and the sporting director (Richard Garlick) called a few of the senior boys together and told us what was happening. It was a bit of a shock but it’s a results business. We’d only won three games in the whole year if you look at it that way. But he (Clarke) did finish eighth last season and I do believe we might have been in a better place.

“The new manager has been good, though. It’s a new philosophy and he’s tried to change the way we are playing. It’s been difficult but we’ve had a few good results along the way against some big teams. We are trying to build on that and get the first win, which will be crucial.

“There are eight teams who are involved in the relegation scrap. There are only six points in it. It’s been a crazy season and I’m sure it will open out in the next few games. I do expect to be in a fight. But we’ve been in the position before and we have a lot of players who know what it takes.”

Scotland’s trip to Poland has taken on added significance since the two countries landed in the same Euro 2016 qualifying group, along with Germany, Republic of Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar.

“It’s a good game for us, just to see what Poland are all about,” said Morrison. “We’ll see what the game brings. I was quite pleased with the draw. The Pot One seed are always going to be a top team and Germany are probably one of the top two in Europe. But the rest finished fourth in their World Cup qualifying groups and are all similar.

“Getting Ireland out of pot two was probably the best we could have got. The squad and the group are happy with the draw. I’d actually prefer to play Poland now we have drawn them. It will be good to see what they are all about. It’s a new stadium in Warsaw and it would be good to get a win.

“Does it lay down a marker for the qualifiers? Anything can happen in a year’s time when we play them next. It will just be a good experience and good to see what their players are like. It’s important for us to keep the feelgood factor going. You can see the effect that has had on our performances ever since Gordon Strachan has come in as manager. That winning feeling has been a big help.

“A lot of the players have been here from the start, we have played the same way in each game and it’s helping. 
This is another step towards that first qualifier.”