By Terry Wills.
Naturally the shock news that Roberto Di Matteo had been sent on gardening leave (or sacked, if you prefer) has left supporters arguing whether this was a hasty decision or whether Jeremy Peace and the board were striving to lift the blame from their shoulders, due to them not being prepared to spend money in the January transfer window. ?
Initially it came as a bombshell despite the conclusion that recent results were pointing towards another relegation battle, to leave supporters wondering, and worrying, that this could, and would, be the case.
Now a few days later we hear on the grapevine that apparently his relationship with certain players certainly wasn’t as comfortable as had been imagined. Some of them are reported to have been going around with smiles on their faces as opposed to expressions of shock, horror and disappointment.
Whatever the truth or otherwise of such claims doesn’t make one iota of difference – Albion ARE in trouble. Not, as yet, deep trouble but far too close to the ominous relegation sign that gleefully hangs out welcoming three relegated clubs back into the world of Championship football.
Naturally, the rumour circuit is working overtime with the names of Roy Hodgson, Alan Curbishley, Chris Hughton, and Derek McInnes, among many others, touted around by the bookies. But in the short term the decision to give Michael Appleton his chance aided by Keith Downing was almost inevitable. ‘Appy’ has been with the Baggies for ten years, as a player he was fierce and uncompromising, and apart from Yousoff Mulumbu, the type of battling competitor that’s been missing for far too long.
Whoever is finally chosen will face the same problems as Di Matteo – a team desperately lacking a striker to add to the ability of Peter Odemwingie and a defence that appeared to be under orders to allow the opposition as many chances as they needed to take points off a team who simply do not know how to defend.
In saying that, apparently Roberto wasn’t dismissed solely as a result of the 3-0 defeat against Manchester City. The decision was made prior to the game and even if we’d snatched a highly unlikely win he would still have been shown the door. And quickly looking back at this reverse, with Carlos Tevez showing truly world class form there was never a hope in hell that we’d leave with anything other than a defeat, made even worse as we were forced to listen to the 5 Live commentary on the way home, with Wolves gaining an unexpected three points against, of all teams, Manchester United.
So on to the next two home games, ironically against two of the teams fighting the same battle as the Baggies – West Ham United, followed by a certain team who happen to play at Molineux.
First up the Hammers and their supporters trilling “We’re forever blowing bubbles” in direct contrast to the Hawthorns faithful singing and praying that the Lord really is our Shepherd by seeing his gathering gain three desperately needed points.
A win will increase our points lead and restore a modicum of confidence, but if not, well, I don’t think there will be any Albion supporter happily buying and reading their Sunday papers, complete with match reports spelling out and confirming what we all fear…..and I don’t need to repeat that again do I?
We can only as always, wait, see, and hope.