Not even second best

Terry Wills on Albion and the FA Cup.

FA Cup weekend. No local clubs involved and a majority of Greed League managers/head coaches selecting weakened teams for one reason only – resting their best players because the over-riding priority is to avoid the relegation that would see them losing out on the pot of gold known as survival money.

Sadly that IS all that matters. You can hear then thinking “We HAVE to survive. A possible Wembley final would be great but we simply can’t take the risk” Yet press, radio and television interviews with players make one thing clear. To a man they stress how the love playing in the cup, how the chance to play at Wembley with the world watching, is an unforgettable experience. Fans echo these sentiments, poignantly bought home to me when the sad news broke that the legendary Sir Tom Finney had died at the age of 91.

I was fortunate, having seen him lining up against the Throstles in the 1954 FA Cup Final (we won 3-2) and chatting with him some forty years later he proudly recalled the whole experience, if not the result.

Which leads to the reality currently facing Baggies fans. Namely, the possibility of ‘enjoying’ Championship (division two) football next season unless Pepe Mel can install a sense of belief and purpose that we can avoid the drop.

A week in Spain then back to the Hawthorns to play one of the prime relegation candidates, Fulham. Bottom of the table, unrest in the boardroom, surely three valuable points to ease our own worries?

Not necessarily so. They’ll be fighting to their last drop of blood and unless Albion can display the sort of performance good enough to take well-earned points off Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea, as opposed to the disaster at Crystal Palace, it could be a continuing worry.

Who will Pepe Mel select as his strikers? Personally I hope it’s Saido and new boy Thievy. They both have pace and an eye for goal, and what could be a better opportunity to prove their talents than popping in a goal or two, and opening a healthy points gap over a desperately struggling, favourites for the drop, Fulham. Please, please don’t let us down.

Come on you Baggies.