West Brom blog: Another week and another win

Another week and another win. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sound modest whilst writing these blogs.

Steve Clarke stock 3

Another week and another win. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sound modest whilst writing these blogs. What a fantastic three points we brought back down the M6 from Wigan on Saturday and what a fantastic time to be a Baggie at the moment, writes Warren Stephens.

I often feel Wigan are somewhat belittled by media and fans across the country. So often I hear many of our supporters confidently predict we’ll go to the DW Stadium and beat them, yet prior to Saturday we’d managed it once in six attempts. Everton, Stoke and West Ham have all dropped points there this season, so it’s certainly an excellent result in the grand scheme of things.

In truth I don’t feel we played fantastically well but it’s becoming quite a feature of this side that even when we’re not in the ascendency, we’re fundamentally quite solid and difficult to play through.

That’s in large part of course to the fabulous foursome of Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley, Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob. In my lifetime I can’t recall such an unshakable foundation to an Albion side. Perhaps the closest to that, though arguably inferior in quality, was the Gary Megson side that contained Darren Moore, Phil Gilchrist, Larus Sigurdsson, Derek McInnes and Andy Johnson. That side went on to change the course of Albion’s history, we can only hope this side can do too.

To the game itself and Steve Clarke switched to a 4-4-2 system, something we’ve not seen yet under his stewardship and a move he admitted was to generate more presence against Wigan’s back three. I didn’t think that Romelu Lukaku had a good enough game to particularly justify his selection, but his sheer presence alone will have undoubtedly helped Shane Long alongside him.

I personally feel that we seem to have a better control over games playing 4-2-3-1 but Clarke probably deserves credit for having the guile, flexibility and bravery to change his system when he felt it was required.

There were also recalls for James Morrison and Chris Brunt. A couple of years ago I used to think that if Morrison could shoot, he’d be worth millions. Well he certainly knows where the net is at the moment and his evolution from the raw young talent Tony Mowbray acquired five years ago has been a pleasure to watch. As for Brunt, I’ll leave you the eloquent words of the friend I was sat next to at the game: “I’m not sure why he’s back in the side to be honest”…….just as he swung over the most sumptuous cross that Mozza devoured at the back post!

It would be an injustice not to mention the contributions of Boaz Myhill, Billy Jones and Liam Ridgewell. Myhill’s performance was faultless and will increase his confidence and also the confidence of the back four in him. With uncertainty lingering over Ben Foster’s fitness, that was certainly a welcome boost.

Jones and Ridgewell have a thankless task getting up and down the flanks and both were excellent. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Ridgewell, who’s proving a stout signing. It was massively pleasing for Billy Jones too to get his first goal for the club. He attracted some criticism earlier in the season, but is a willing battler and has proved he’s capable of being a top performer at this level.

This weekend sees the visit of European Champions and Premier League title rivals Chelsea (tongue firmly in cheek, obviously). It’s a game that Albion can afford the luxury of entering without any great amount of expectation. It also signals the return of former manager Roberto Di Matteo and assistant Eddie Newton.

Di Matteo left Albion after a barren spell of 3 wins in 18 games, a run that left us hovering precariously above the Premier League trap door and hideously out of form. Even so, he remained popular amongst fans and whilst we’ve since gone on to bigger and better things (as has he), I still hold fond memories of his reign.

He certainly left us in a better place than when he took over, achieving promotion at the first attempt, and games such as the 5-1 win at Middlesbrough, the 3-2 promotion party at Doncaster, the remarkable 3-2 win at Arsenal and the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford will live long in the memory.

Unfortunately by the end of his reign- a 4-0 hammering away at Manchester City- he looked a lost soul and his sacking, whilst something of a shock to many at the time, now looks an astute call by Jeremy Peace.

I’m sure then that most Albion fans raised a wry smile when Di Matteo went on to become an FA Cup and Champions League winner and genuinely wish him well, but come 4.50pm on Saturday I rather hope he looks like he did after that sorry defeat at the Etihad Stadium than he did in Munich back in May. Come on you Baggies!!

Comments for: "West Brom blog: Another week and another win"

CantelloRocket 78

Warren, good morning mate.

It's funny that I just spotted your blog talking about the Wigan game, because a couple of hours ago I came across one of the Wigan bloggers giving his own view of last week's match.

It's always interesting to see how different people give their own angle on the same event, some tend to be a little more biased than others, like the time 'laughing wolf' saw his beloved team hammered at Newcastle 1-4, then posted that the Toon fans he spoke to after the game all agreed with him that Wolves deserved to win it.......yeah, right......

Anyway, this Wigan blogger praised Albion for being 'well drilled, organised and efficient', but said anyone watching the game would've thought they were the top 5 club, not us, and he firmly believes Wigan 'undoubtably have more quality in their squad than West Brom'.

I'll leave it up to others to debate that claim.

As for the Chelsea game, you know I'm always very positive, but I like to think I've also got a firm grip on reality, so I fully expect most people to see us as the underdogs-

the difference is that a couple of years back we'd have automatically been written off, but these days our odds will be shorter, and people will take us more seriously, so although I see it as a pretty tough challenge, all the pressure's on 'the blues' to take the points- let's just see if we can maybe spoil their party!

Possibly see you before the game?

Warren

Hi mate,

I remember after our FA Cup semi vs Portsmouth, we walked to the nearest pub and bemoaned that given how much of the game we'd had, losing was such an injustice. A Pompey fan overheard us and said "I know it may seem like that, but we've been doing that to all teams all season, it's no fluke".

Similarly I think the Wigan fan in this case may well think they had a good chunk of the game, but I think the sign of a good time is to be solid and pick teams off when you're not playing well. In truth (and I could be wrong because I'd had a few), I don't recall Myhill making too many saves.

Hopefully we can spoil their party and I'll try and get down the Sportsman for a drink this time before that cardboard cut-out falls apart.

CantelloRocket 78

Warren,

it's no wonder we keep missing you, some of us are meeting in The Vine, and you're goin' to The Sportsman ( although Jarrod and 'Hilltop' might be in there ).

On the subject of that cardboard cutout I have of you, I'm currently splashin' wood preservative on the garden fences, and I've given your cutout a coatin'.

Unfortunately, it's described as 'harvest gold', but it comes out 'orangey', so you look like you've been 'tango'd'-

or as the wolves fans might now say, 'tongo'd'..........

Jack ♣ Hat.

Cantello,

Place a fan in each stand and besides the bias they will still give a different version mate, it's all to do with angles I suppose. Wigan had more possession but ALBION did more with less that is why we are where we are. Having said that Wigan are a decent side. Lets hope the referee is a good one for the Chelsea match mate.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

hill top baggie

hiya both, fancy a game of predicting the score in the vine tommorrow ? Well here goes, a baggie win is my punt,probably 2-1

CantelloRocket 78

alright Pete,

Tough one, this.

Me heart sez Albion have enough quality to win it, my head can't argue with the bookies having Chelsea odds-on favourites, so shall I sit on me newly preserved fence and go for a score draw?

Think I'll sleep on it, tell yer tomorrow......

Inside man

Great days to be an Albion Fan. Been rather busy recently but i expect Fostef to be out for a month or at least another 2-3 games. What with Mcauley looking doubtful for this weekend just wondered would you replace GMac with Tamas or Dawson if available

Warren

Or Popov at left-back and Ridgewell central?

Baggyjon

But not very good days to be a Wulfie!!!!

Baggiebob

Dawson has an eye injury and unlikely to feature. I was a very unhappy bunny when RDM was sacked, but time has convinced me the club were right.

Warren writes like a true fan and has a very different style to Bomber which doesn't make it any less interesting.

The game against Chelsea will be won or lost not at the back or the front; the battle of the midfield will determine the outcome. Chelsea's midfield has flair and speed whereas the Albion has a mean duo in Yacob and Mulumbu who can also pick a pass or two.

Warren

Cheers Bob, much appreciated.

On the point of the midfield battle, I'd be inclined to agree. Chelsea's main threat is that trio of players from Oscar, Hazard, Mata and Moses drifting around in that space in front of the opposition back four. Is there a side in the Premier League better equipped to face that than us with Mulumbu and Yacob breaking up the play?

I believe Mata played 45 minutes for Spain in Panama of all places on Wednesday too, so hopefully he may not start.

The Grassy Knoll

I don't think that Dawson is available, due to his eye injury.

Has he recovered?

The Real Bully Hoo.

It seems to be the same as with the RB position in recent weeks. Many people want to see Craig Dawson play but typical of our luck when Mr Reliable McCauley might be out Dawson is out as well.

CantelloRocket 78

I haven't heard any recent updates regarding injuries, but if Tamas is available, I'd expect him to be SC's first choice as a stand-in central defender.

Some people may have reservations, but he's strong, experienced, and a couple of years back the media actually once linked him with a move to Chelsea, so I believe Steve would have no hesitation putting him in the team, it suits him better there than playing at right back.

Warren

CR78

I think you might be right about Tamas. Although I suggested Ridgewell earlier, in truth I doubt we'd start with two left-sided centre-backs.

Tamas put in a decent shift at Villa and in the games that followed in a position unnatural to him. Whilst we remember not so great games for Tamas of yesteryear, Steve Clarke only has recent games to judge him on, where he's done okay. He's not seen how Dawson will react in the Premier League.

Baggyjon

Good blog Warren, yes it's going well and 5th in the league to boot. Being an Albion fan you think well maybe this is as good as it's going to get. But why? Could we get better, yes I think we can and given a reasonable shout on the injury front and a smile from Lady Luck who knows.

Thank heaven my dear old dad took me to the Hawthorns to watch the Baggies back in 65, all those cups, finals, semi finals. Great days and many since. Some dark days also. Unfortunately his two brothers followed the Wulfs. Nuff said really.

I really like being an Albion fan when we do well but especially when all our neighbours are so poor, and boy are they poor. We know what we are, and long may it continue.

Warren

Cheers Jon, much appreciated!

Jack ♣ Hat.

Warren,

When our strikers don't score it is nice to know there are others who can step up to the plate for us. We can strike from all over the park. I would just like to mention how blessed we are in having Jeremy Peace and the way our club is run.

Mandebt Utd have just have just paid off some debt (After going around with the begging bowl) to the tune of £62.6m. They now only owe £359.7m. Hollow club, hollow trophies. Let us have a table starting with clubs with no debt and see how they shape up. "Fairness in Football" F.A. and do away with penalizing / Handicapping clubs that are run debt free.

Must mention Zlatans superb overhead, back to goal, best ever strike, made Rooney's shin dig look amateurish. Jonas Olsson had a good game, his clearances and distribution were first class and he was another reason why England lost. But Roy gave the younger generation a run-out. Plenty of positives for him to be happy with, after all that is what friendly matches are for. I agree, fond memories of Roberto but it was time for him to go and he did, back home to Chelsea and he has done well. Hope that comes to an end Saturday.

No fear, we march on.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Robin Brittain

Sorry Jack I could not see many positives in the England display last night. All I saw were the same old failings with both the established players and newcomers being mainly the inability to bring the ball under control. Whilst we struggle with the basics we will never prosper at international level. However good Hodgson is as a coach you cannot make a silk purse out of a pig's ear.

Steve

On Zlatan's (easier to spell his first name) goal, I still think Bomber's goal in the 2-1 FA cup 3rd round defeat at Sheff. Wed. in 1970 is the best I've seen. It was on Match of the Day, so it's probably in the archives somewhere. Bobby Charlton has since described it as the best goal he had ever seen. I'm yet to see a better goal, but the goal on Wednesday was brilliant and comes close - first time I've ever cheered out loud when a goal went in against England!

The Real Bully Hoo.

I suppose we always do this but it's like trying to compare different players. Who's the best ever player? It's always between Pele, Messi, Maradonna, Cruyff, Best, Eusabio, all superbly skilled attackers. What about Moore and Beckenbauer? I think Beckenbauer despite being a German was the most complete footballer I ever saw but then George Best was the most entertaining.

Let's just say it was a great goal, as was Rooney's, Bomber's and probably one scored by a bloke in a Sunday morning game down the park last week that nobody saw.

We Only Need One Half!

Upon until Saturday, Wigan had won all the odd numbered games, i.e. first, third, fifth and seventh, that being the ninth meeting in the Prem, another hoodoo bites the dust ;-)

CantelloRocket 78

WONOH,

for some reason, my Villa-supporting neighbour keeps runnin' indoors whenever he sees me these days-

and to think, in past years he always used to stick his chest out, and arrogantly brag about his 'boys' down in Witton.

I just wanted to tell him that Villa have also won all odd numbered games-

they won a game in 2007, another in 2009, and one in 2011.......:)

The Real Bully Hoo.

Perhaps it's because he thought you might be the type of bloke that would take the P out of him because their star striker dreams of being at Arsenal and thought Villa were a London team but he's willing to put up with Villa for now.

Perish the thought that you might do that.

Netherton Baggie

Let's leave Ridgewell where he is, and not play him alongside Olsson,if Mcauley is missing. I seem to remember,he had an awful game at Wigan last season,when we somehow drew 1-1 whilst playing as a central defender.

Kev in Mallorca

What, he had an awful game? 20 lashes, walk the plank and boil him in oil for good measure! That'll teach him!

astleistheking

Personally I was the opposite as I would have taken a draw before the game, but I can see why many would think different.

It would be pretty tough on Billy if he were to be dropped and hopefully is in a rythem plus have confidence due to the last few games, but part of me thinks an older head like Reidy would suit the Chelsea game. If he's completed a few reserve games then his fitness should be there.

The only other worry is not having Foster, but as I've said in previous threads Boaz will hopefully take this opportunity to show us of his ability. He has a NO nonsence defence in front of him who will no doubt bark at him to keep him on his toes.

Chelsea are not scoring too many these day's so a low scoredraw could possibly suffice?

Warren, Rocket, Max hope to see you down teh Vine???? will have the old man with me which is his first game in 10 years so he will be like a kid.

Brierleyhillbaggie

Great blog warren you always just say enough to get people chomping at the bit but never enough to get into an arguement !!!!! Just the way it should be

I wasn't to happy when riberto got the sack and someone said on here that even under Roberto they don't think we would of gone down ! Neither did I. But once again j peace once again done what turned out to be right decision and brought in woy hodgson and looking back now it was the correct decision the club needed experience and what better than good old woy. Riberto helped us in many great ways and for that I will always be great full cheers ROB

Warren

Cheers Brierley Hill, appreciate that.

WBA78

hi warren wel done for becoming the new blog master

well i must go back further than mr megson last time i saw this we had

a certian messers wile batson robertson statham at the back things have a way of doing a full circle i told my late dad thease days would come back to the baggies damn shame my dad aint around to see the rebirth of the day he took me the 4th game in 1978 ron atkinsons first game in charge

from that day i was hooked seen them do europe cups im not getting carried away im too damn old to do that but we started like this when atkinson came in to replace ronnie allen we all said who? my dad said thats it now baggies have had it ,far from it was some of the best football i ever seen

we had players good enough for england at the time but never got a look in ,this club has been built from the laces up and we will prove

you dont need million pound players to win things teams like albion will start and do it the money will eventualy dry up in football it will happen and it will be sooner than you think,its hit all the banks and the money lenders it will start to hit the big clubs like your chelsea man u city arsenal,ok they have it now,are they gonna have it in the next 5 or 6 seasons?i dont think so you will see more and more clubs go back to the old way useing the up and comimg academey kids like liverpool used too,.

be too expensive soon to go get that oversea player or that 40 goal a season player,will have to be home growen talent,same as coaches now they call them,you will see more and more steve clarks become managers,

look now in the prem as the big named managers bite the dust ,clubs are now

looking to non high profile that command big money and transfer fee look at liverpool villa 3 or 4 years ago thease guys wouldnt have picked the pen up to apply nevermind gettin the job times are changing gonna be a lot of clubs unless run like albion go to the wall what are chairmans gonna say if we finish in a euro place?a fluke?luck?no they are gonna say how much is

the albion squad?how much are they payed?

where did steve clark come from?realy oh well time my club was run like this sick of being held to ransome by thease over payed hasbeens

if wba can get a coach to mould a team and assemble a team for less than andy carrol get into europe win a cup and a league then i want the same

it can be done,the likes of ya 50 100 mil players will be no more ,

enjoy what we have we are the envy of many a club i tell you,.

roll on sat i nolonger say well if we play well it is chelsea,.

no im saying its chelsea we can do this and get some points

The Real Bully Hoo.

WBA78.

Good blog.

You're right it's not only how far we've come but how we've got here.

Without sounding big-headed we've not put a foot wrong and I said the other day I heard Malky McKay pointing to us as the blue print for other clubs to follow. He also mentioned Stoke but they have enjoyed a rich benefactor, something we've never had. In other words we've done it the hard way and most of the credit for that must belong to JP.

Most other clubs fans in our position would now be on here shouting about how beating Chelsea will be a 'shoe in.' It's to the great credit of the Baggies that instead we're hoping for a draw and praying for a win.

Now the sting in the tail. I'm borderline obsessive about BFR and wish you hadn't mentioned him in the same breath as Steve Clarke although I realise your comparison was more about their's and Albion's relative positions shortly after taking over. One of them's a big-mouthed, big-headed, flashy, self publicising, under achieving manager and the other one couldn't be more different.

The Real Bully Hoo.

PS.

Having given our fans the big build up just a word about Marcus Rosenburg. Some that are writing him off as 'not good enough,' should look back about twelve or fifteen years. Although this may seem a lifetime to younger supporters it's nothing in football terms.

We had strikers like Defreitas who couldn't care less or Micky Evans who was keen but limited. Dichio was one of our better strikers of those days and when we got a decent striker like Lee Hughes we had to sell him because we couldn't offer him top flight football. We would have sold our souls for a player of Rosenburg's class.

"We know who we are" works as a boast but also says a whole lot more about us as fans. "We know who we are" and we're not Manchester United glory hunters.

Warren

TRBH

You can always be relied upon to stick up for a player and I agree with you on Rosenberg.

He was bought as a central striker and hasn't yet had chance to play there. Until he has, we can't really judge him. Similarly to Fortune, such is the success of Long and Lukaku, he's had to play a role out wide so far.

I still suspect Chelsea might take Lukaku back as they are competing for 5 trophies (if you include the World Club Championship) and have only 2 senior strikers. If that happens, then Rosenberg may get his chance from January.

Funnily enough I wonder if we snapped up Rosenberg without thinking Lukaku would be attainable and then took Lukaku as it was such a good opportunity. A similar thing happened with Tony Mowbray, he signed Bartosz Slusarski and then Miller and Bednar became available on or near deadline day.

mboy

We'd win the Premiership if it was points per salary. This might come in if Platini has his way!!

Warren

Cheers mate, much appreciated.

CantelloRocket 78

An interesting point of discussion-

I just spotted an interview with Dan Ashworth talking about Steve Clarke, where he says the two of them joke that the average 'lifespan' of a manager is 14 months, so Steve will go because he either won't win enough games, or he'll be headhunted.

Modern Football's not exactly a stable environment, is it?

The Real Bully Hoo.

I'm tempted to say it is for the donkey's down the road but that would be cruel wouldn't it?

CantelloRocket 78

Bully,

talking about the 'donkeys down the road' probably would be insensitive, so it's best if neither of us says 'donkeys down the road' in our posts.........:)

Kev in Mallorca

and yo!

Adéu

Kev in Mallorca

Hey Trbhoo! don't insult my donkeys, what have they done to you?

Adéu

PS. I sent this before I sent one to Cantello, don't know what happened to it.

Warren

CR78

I think unlike in previous years, we're now in the very fortunate position where (barring domestic fighting) there are only a small band of clubs that Clarke would see as a positive step.

He's not a big name abroad so is likely to remain in the UK. Arsenal and Manchester United are permanently unavailable, and even if that changed then they and City would far more likely go for a household name. Liverpool and Chelsea have both gone for young and relatively unproven (certainly at top 6 level) already, if either of their managers got the chop, you suspect they'd be under pressure to get a bigger name (i.e. the unproven experiment hasn't worked). Chelsea though is perhaps one he'll be continually linked. Newcastle unlikely to become available, can't see Spurs going for him. Scotland perhaps, but he's still young in his management career so maybe wouldn't jump for that. Would he jump ship for a Sunderland, Everton or Villa???

I guess if he is wanted by the top top clubs, it will be because he's done something remarkable with us i.e. won a trophy with us, got to Europe, so it's a win-win really.

CantelloRocket 78

Warren,

in that interview I read, DA said one of the things that impressed him about Steve was his desire to just be involved with football, he hated not being part of things whenever he was out of a job.

He's now in his 50's, and he's a quiet, sensible guy who just seems to enjoy being in football, he doesn't take me as a loud, ambitious glory hunter, he seems very grounded, so if the club's good to him, I believe he'll be good to the club.

I'm just pleased that he's started well, he really deserved his break.

Cyril Randle

The sad thing about 14 month managers is progress takes time, something they don't have, so we have been very fortunate on that front. Imagine Man.U. before Sir Alex. And then when he goes, (probably sooner than we think), up to their eyeballs in debt, it will be potentially a poisoned chalice to inherit. Where was this story about Dan and Steve please ?