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West Brom boss Tony Pulis insists Jonny Evans was unfazed by the uncertainty surrounding his future and urged the defender to fight for his place.
The 29-year-old was a target for Manchester City, Leicester and Arsenal during the transfer window. City had a bid of Â£18million turned down while West Brom rejected offers of Â£10million and Â£23million from the Foxes.
Evans has yet to feature for the club he captains this season but played in both of Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying matches this month, scoring in a 2-0 victory against Czech Republic.
In his absence – Evans had been nursing a hamstring injury – West Brom have made a solid start to the season, taking seven points from their opening three Premier League games and conceding just one goal.
Summer signing Ahmed Hegazy has made a positive early impression alongside Craig Dawson at the heart of the Albion defence and it is not a given that Evans will simply be restored to the side.
“He’s got to knuckle down to get back into the team and start showing everyone how good of a player he is again,” said Pulis.
“But ye ah, it was very important we kept him. Although t he bottom line is that Man City and Arsenal were interested, they just never met the valuation the football club wanted. If they’d have met the valuation it might have been a different situation.
“I’m pleased that Jonny stayed. He’s a very down-to-earth lad, h e’s very level-headed.
“He’s been at one of the great clubs in world football for a long time so going to Man City or going to Arsenal would not have fazed him at all. And I don’t think the speculation fazed him.”
Pulis’ team renew their Premier League campaign on Saturday at newly-promoted Brighton, who have yet to score a goal.
“Yes but they will score, I guarantee you that. I just hope it won’t be against us,” said Pulis.
“They’ve been unfortunate in the couple of games I’ve watched. They were certainly unfortunate not to beat Watford, having hit the post a couple of times. I know Watford had 10 men but Brighton had good opportunities.”
Pulis, who will have Evans available for the first time this season, will decide whether to include new signings Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kieran Gibbs in his squad, with both players short of match fitness.
Gareth McAuley is back in training after a thigh injury but Saturday’s game will come too soon for him to be considered while Hal Robson-Kanu is still suspended.
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