West Brom head coach Tony Pulis insists he harbours no hard feelings towards Joleon Lescott over the player’s decision to join West Midlands rivals Aston Villa.
The two teams meet in a local derby at Villa Park on Saturday for the first time since Lescott ended a year at The Hawthorns to join his boyhood club on transfer deadline day.
Lescott, 33, was dropped after Albion’s opening 3-0 defeat to Manchester City this season, returning to the starting line-up for what proved to be a farewell appearance against Stoke City, and Pulis spoke in glowing terms about the former England defender.
“For me, he’s been a wonderful, wonderful player,” Pulis told his pre-match news conference.
“He’s coming to the back end of a fantastic career. He’d done brilliant for me so there was no way I was going to stop him.
“I’d spoken to Joleon on many occasions. When I first came into the club he was one of the players that I actually put my confidence in.
“He was a really good lad. I’ve got a lot of time for Joleon and I wish him all the best. He’s a good player.”
Villa’s 2-0 FA Cup victory over West Brom in March was marred by scenes of crowd trouble and Pulis is keen to see the more positive aspects of a local rivalry on display this weekend.
“The disappointing thing about last season was the crowd trouble,” he said. “It’s about professional football, two teams going head to head and giving it everything
“Hopefully we’ll have a great game and people will behave themselves.
“It does take a bit of character to stand up afterwards and walk away if you’ve lost but that’s what people should do.”