Filed: Wednesday, 2nd November 2005
By: Matthew Coker
You know that the opposition is pretty poor when you get allocated a 3pm kick off on a Saturday afternoon. This week we welcome the Baggies, West Brom to the Boleyn for our next stage of our Premier League adventure.
A few facts about our opponents, they are in their second consecutive top flight season after surviving in dramatic fashion on the last day of last season, becoming the first Premiership team to defy the bottom at Christmas curse. Frank Skinner and Adrian Chiles (MOTD 2 presenter) make up their celebratory support, though Eric Clapton wore an Albion scarf on the sleeve of one of his albums. They also boast last season’s Premiership fan of the year, 86 year old Vic Stirrup, who has only missed 5 games in 60 years, 3 of them whilst in convalesce from a hip replacement.
The last home game against the Baggies was one to forget. A Championship clash saw us promptly take a three goal lead only for them to start up the ditty, “We’re gonna win 4-3”. Which they did.
They were widely expected to build on last season’s euphoria but early results suggest otherwise. They currently sit in the mythical 17th place that we will settle for, with just 8 points. They have managed victories against Portsmouth and an injury ravaged L’Arsenal and have held Sunderland and Man Ciddy to draws, the only away point coming at the Stadium of Light. They have lost to Chelsea and Charlton but the rest of their conquerors have been the mediocre line up of Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan, Birmingham and Newcastle.
The Baggies manager, Bryan Robson was a world class player earning 90 caps for his country and won two Premierships with Manchester United. He began his managerial career with Middlesbrough and lasted 7 years at the club. He did enjoy relative success; two promotions, two league cup final appearances and an FA Cup final whilst at the helm and the club he left behind was unrecognisable from the one he took over (though don’t discount Steve Gibson’s huge influence in this).
The end of this spell had damaged his managerial reputation and when a post in charge of the Nigerian national team fell through, he took over at Bradford, where he took a nearly relegated side all the way down. He joined WBA twelve months ago, keeping them up and will hope to do the same again this season.
The first choice goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, will sit this one out with bruised kidneys, so the Pole in goal will be Tomasz Kuszczak, a man rumoured to want out of the Black Country. He will be protected by Brummie Darren Moore (though he offered little protection in the 3-0 defeat by Newcastle) and £3m summer signing Curtis Davies. 20 year old Davies has impressed with some mature and confident displays and one goal so far and is tipped for a bright future.
Wide defensive men are likely to be former Chelsea trainee, Neil Clement on the left (while first choice Paul Robinson serves a three match ban) and Dane Martin Albrechtsen if fit, though Riccardo Scimeca from Leamington Spa was a shock introduction for the last game. Albion have experimented with 4-5-1 and 3-5-2 formations but neither yielded much success, so I am expecting four across the back.
The midfield has been fairly unsettled to date, the one consistent starter has been Jonathan Greening, formerly of Man Yoo and Middlesbrough. He has contributed one goal this season. Other attacking options include Senegalese striker played as a winger, Diomansy Kamara and the popular Hungarian, Zoltan Gera.
Defensive options include former Everton man, Steve Watson, and another ex United man, Ronnie Wallwork. Alternatives lie with Junichi Inamoto and Darren Carter. Watson and Inamoto started in the middle with Carter and Greening out wide in the last game.
The club has a total of six strikers to choose from and have subsequently tried all manner of combinations, in fact 9 different lines up in their 11 games this season. Top scorer to date is Geoff Horsfield with four, though he has been out injured for a while and is unlikely to feature. Nwanko Kanu is the only other striker to have netted a League goal, though Nathan Ellington and Robert Earnshaw have each copped a pair in the League cup and Kevin Campbell is waiting to break his duck this year.
West Ham know Ellington well, he scored two against us in the home defeat last season and finished the year with the Championship golden boot. Taffy pin up, Earnshaw, will hope to feature against his old Cardiff and current international team mate, Danny Gabbidon. Consensus amongst the fans suggest that Earnshaw is most effective from the bench (or on the bench according to some of them).
This game has to be on Pards list of ones that we need to be targetting to gain points from if we want to survive. West Brom’s injury problems mean that they are not at full strength and the line up is still far from settled. I am not naïve enough to expect it to be any sort of pushover, the factor that may work against us is that they will probably be the first team that come to the Boleyn this season with any sort of idea that they might not win which will mean the kind of cagey football that we have not coped well with in the past. Add to this, a vocal away crowd and we will have to work hard on Saturday.
I am going to plump for a 2-0 (Harewood and Yossi) with plenty of effort and industry required to get there.
Enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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