West Bromwich Albion settled nicely in the Premier League last season, after their instant return to the top flight of English Football. However with our beloved game becoming ever more competitive, it is important that the Baggies hit the ground running if they are to push away from the relegation zone once more. With a gap of just 8 points separating 19th and 10th last season, relegation could have befallen any one of those clubs, leaving another tricky season to predict, where any of around 12 teams may struggle to gain the mid table status that they so desire.
This unfortunately could result in the likes of West Brom, Wolves and Blackburn being dragged down into the depths of the top flight football once more, perhaps resulting in the fortunes of some clubs finally running out. However, it seems that West Bromwich Albion may have the edge on clubs around them this season, potentially finding a winning formula to success in the premier league. This and this alone may well leave fans and stakeholders alike unclenching come the end of the season, knowing their league status is safe for another season.
The first ingredient in beating relegation is management. After Roy Hodgson took over from Roberto Di Matteo in February, a new lease of life has befallen these potential strugglers. Suddenly, the former Fulham and Liverpool manager brought experience and status to this club once more, as they sought after a mid-table finish that would have been a pipe dream when relegated. Despite seeming to have little flair or personality with the media and fans, Roy’s experience and respect as a manager seems to have paid dividends. The challenge was a tricky one, yet it appears that Hodgson can feel at ease with these underdogs, as he had experienced and thrived under at Fulham. Hodgson, perhaps out of his depth at Liverpool, appears to appreciate spirit and passion of the clubs that have to work so hard for their points, allowing the club to move from 16th to 11th under his reign last season.
The next addition to the potential WBA success is transfer activity. With the summer being lit up by signings from all over the world, players of different levels and nationalities were recruited to the premier league to bolster the lines of both attack and defence. Fortunately for all Baggies fans Hodgson has also invested, and has invested well. Having watched the West Brom vs. Manchester United match on Sunday, the team didn’t seem overly outplayed or out of depth against a new and improved United side, who have already been touted as Premier League favourites before the season truly began. The likes of Tchoyi and Brunt look passionate and hard working, providing role models for both new signings and fellow team mates to encourage the best out of them. Hodgson’s signings of Foster, on loan, and Shane Long, for around 6 million, appear to be both sensible and carry ambition.
Foster is a proven goalkeeper, and despite looking cautious on Sunday, it was surely expected against such a strong United team. However Shane Long is without doubt a very good signing for the Baggies, as they won the race to sign the Irishman last week. Having worked for Reading Football Club, I witnessed the work rate and ability that Shane carried, resulting in a sad day for all Reading fans when the Baggies came knocking on Shane’s door. The goals obviously speak wonders for his ability, however if you were to look at him initially, you would perhaps not understand the extent of his skill. At 5 foot 11 inches, he is hardly the ‘target man’ build, yet he can play almost any role asked. With pace, a stocky and strong build, and a leap that would rival any defender, it enables him to work hard for his team, resulting in the ability to score goals from anywhere in and around the box. Furthermore, as Roy Hodgson stated later on Sunday:
‘I thought he and Tchoyi were very, very good together up front. They played very well and asked a lot of questions of the defence.’
This poses one question. A question that Baggies fans will not begrudge asking themselves. Where will Peter Odemwingie fit in? It seems ‘prolific Peter’ perhaps will be sold to either Newcastle or Wigan, in an attempt to find further funds for some last minute signings. However, if he should stay, it appears he would fit in a rotation system between ‘target man’ Tchoyi and the workaholic Shane Long, which will without doubt provide the goals that the Baggies will so desperately need.