Look back in Albion

Terry Wills looks back on Albion’s season.

Before specifically looking back at Albion’s fluctuating campaign I feel that the standard of football overall displayed by the majority of Premier (Greed League) clubs was disappointing. As expected it was set against a background of fans knowing that come season’s end , if they didn’t support Chelsea, Arsenal or one of the Manchester clubs the chances of seeing their favourites genuinely competing for honours was to say the least minimal.

So it proved. For Baggies fans it started with Alan Irvine – a virtually unknown and unwanted appointment – accompanied by a clutch of players signed by his predecessor. That naturally caused problems as to their strengths and weaknesses – and there were certainly more weaknesses than strengths.

Brown Ideye, a £10 million pound signing, will forever be remembered for that incredible open goal miss at Villa Park. At his best he displayed flashes of genuine potential. Sadly they were they were few and far between and as the season progressed Albion were edging ever closer to one of the three dreaded relegation spots.

Changes were necessary. Fans fearing the dreadful prospect of watching Championship football with Jeremy Peace recognised all too well that relegation would mean a massive loss in filthy rich television money.

Exit Alan Irvine – welcome Tony Pulis. A head coach/manager who for years had become despised for his negative, boring tactics. That was immaterial as all that mattered was that his teams had never suffered relegation. No denying his appointment was greeted with controversy but like it or not he’d been bought to the Hawthorns to do a specific job, ensuring that West Bromwich Albion would be playing top flight football next season. And he did it against a background of rumours and speculation specifically surrounding our one proven striker, Said Berahino.

Slowly results improved to the extent that eventually we finished well out of danger. A typical series of clean sheets results was the backbone although when playing at the time, two of the bottom three clubs, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City at home, both were lost with seven goals conceded.

Remarkably with the daunting last five games being against the top five they astound everyone by not only beating Manchester United at Old Trafford but inflicted a comprehensive 3-0 Hawthorns trouncing on the runaway champions Chelsea.

A detailed summing-up would fill a volume but for me I’ll say that without Tony Pulis we could have suffered relegation. The astute signing of Darren Fletcher, successfully converting Craig Dawson and Chris Baird to fill the acknowledged weak full positions, healing Saido Berahino’s unrest, bringing the very best out of James Morrison.

Introducing his own recognised punishing trading schedules that the players were enjoying . Joleon Lescott confirming that Pulis had instilled a growing confidence within the squad. All proof that he had had a major influence on the climb away from danger.

Yes, a satisfying conclusion but without question when playing against the likes of London’s and Manchester’s finest the difference in quality was plain to see, apart from that last game 3-0 drubbing of Chelsea of course.

Looking ahead the question has to be whether the improvement can be maintained, bearing in mind a possible change of ownership and the amount of cash available to
Tony Pulis. Can quality players be brought in to maintain or hopefully improve on the current situation?

Only time will tell.