Blog: Gareth McAuley is No 1 for West Brom

I can never truly decide if West Brom-free weekends are rewarding for a fan or not, writes blogger Warren Stephens.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City - The Hawthorns

There’s the comfort of knowing you won’t be clinically depressed come Saturday evening.

Yet whether you spend it in a pub, with family or meandering around clothes shops exchanging knowing glances with the other soulless passengers in there, a part of you longs for next week’s fixture whilst curiously glancing at the other teams’ scores.

It certainly provides an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the season as a whole, particularly with West Brom's Player of the Year awards just around the corner.

Assuming we can muster a win and a draw from our remaining six games, this season will be the club’s most successful in around 30 years.

We are fortunate to have so many outstanding candidates for Player of the Year. Indeed, it’s difficult not to mention the whole squad for the tremendous effort they’ve put in.

Ben Foster took the honours last season and has again been outstanding in goal. In an era of swerving balls where goalkeeping errors are commonplace, just ask Joe Hart.

Foster’s brought a standard and consistency we just didn’t have with Scott Carson.

I have lost count of the number of outstanding saves he’s made and performances like the one at Anfield almost get you three points single-handedly.

Claudio Yacob’s proven an immense signing, in a role so often under-appreciated he seemingly gets his foot in everywhere, can pick a pass and never over-complicates things.

Arguably only injury- a period in which results notably suffered too- prevents him from being a main contender.

Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu have proven a formidable pairing in midfield.

For me, Mulumbu could be Player of the Year every year, he’s that good and his contribution is sometimes taken for granted.

Between them they’re the heartbeat of this West Brom side and it’s imperative we keep them together for next season.

James Morrison has also had an impressive season, he’s made remarkable progress over the six years he’s been at West Brom and was a prominent contender at Christmas.

However, the absence of Mulumbu and-or Yacob in some games has often led to Morrison having to play a deeper role than he prefers and his performances have levelled off slightly since then.

Romelu Lukaku has been mentioned by some as a leading contender. It’s outrageous to think that he’s still 19 years old given his physicality and the mature way he carries himself.

He’s certainly nailed on for the young player award. Since the turn of the year he’s been immense - he was unplayable at Reading and at home to Sunderland.

For me though, without minutes on the pitch, his performances were patchier in the early parts of the season and I’m still not convinced he’s at his best when operating as a lone front-man.

We would certainly love him back though, let’s hope that Falcao signs for Chelsea! My vote for Player of the Year would have to go to Gareth McAuley.

When he signed I remember message boards being awash with criticism from supporters who hadn’t heard of him or were sceptical of his pedigree being a free transfer.

Perhaps, more amusingly, many despaired that we hadn’t coughed up the money to make a big-money signing like Roger Johnson instead!

Gareth McAuley has grown and grown, perhaps the biggest compliment he can be paid is that this season he’s even out-performed Mr Reliable.

Jonas Olsson, a man he’s formed a solid partnership alongside at centre-back.

For me, along with Ben Foster, McAuley’s been our most consistent performer over the season as a whole and now looks a seasoned Premier League defender. We saw against Arsenal that McAuley’s not infallible.

Indeed, I would much rather see him winning deep headers and having team-mates close to him rather than being stretched and left one-on-one with pacey, quick-footed opponents.

But in the system we operate he’s been immense. Onto the weekend which sees the visit of Newcastle United.

This is probably an unfortunate time to play them, and I don’t just mean from the perspective of any local Police horses.

They suffered a crushing home defeat in a local derby last Sunday and will undoubtedly be keen to make amends.

They were one of the best teams to come to the Hawthorns last season but have failed to replicate last season’s form.

The loss of Demba Ba can only be good news for Albion fans given his tendency to score against us every time he plays.

It’s certainly an opportunity for Albion to register some points and I think it’s fairly important that the season doesn’t end with a whimper.

To my mind, the goals we conceded against West Ham and Arsenal were far too soft, it’s out of character and something we need to rectify sooner rather than later.

Come on you Baggies!

Comments for: "Blog: Gareth McAuley is No 1 for West Brom"

New Broseley Baggie

Hi Warren.Good blog again.I agree with you regarding the Albion heart beat in the middle of the park being YM and CY.When either or both have been absent we have looked a different team.Dropping Mozza back there has taken away some creativity and goals from midfield.And Mozza has a cracking shot on him.I think in the close season we are desperate for a back up holding midfielder.Thorne looks a decent player,but from what ive seen so far,he is not the same type of player as CY/YM.And to think CY was free,and YM,if my memory serves,was around 125k?So hopefully we can find another gem.

The Real Bully Hoo.

Morning Warren.

It's difficult to argue with anything you say. I think it's a sign of how good Ben Foster has been that we've started to take it for granted that we've got a top keeper. Similar to Mulumbu in that we notice him more when he occasionally drops below his normal high standards than when he plays a blinder. Jonas is another that has been so consistent since he came into the team that it's akin to a sighting of Halle's Comet when he has a bad game and as you say Mozza has suffered from having to play in different roles this season. Romelu would also win most improved player this season, looks apart he's almost unrecognisable from the lad that joined us, this fact is both the reason we may lose him back to Chelsea but also why we may get to keep him for a bit longer.

Then there is Mr Reliable Gareth McAuley. To me he;s like a throwback to a 1960's centre half, a real man's man in everything but the fact that he rarely fouls and seems to prefer to intercept than to tackle which is a must in today's game. Nothing flashy yet surprisingly composed and skilful for such a big man.

Anybody else got any new awards to suggest?

Twitter User of the Year (otherwise known as biggest Twit.)

Walthamstow Albion

TRBH, agree with your comments especially Mozza.

'Anybody else got any new awards to suggest?'

Not sure if it already exists but Albion's community and charity work, mainly in traditional Albion-supporting Sandwell and Dudley heartlands, is second to none and highly commendable.

Do players or club employees get recognised for their time and effort for this type of work?

I didn't realise how much work goes on at the Albion Foundation. Loads of charity work, working with people with impairments, sport with children, womens' teams etc.

Boaz Myhill recently visited pupils from Ormiston Forge Academy in Cradley Heath. Good for him, not currently playing but giving his time to other club work.

Ben Foster and Steven Reid visiting Russells Hall hospital. Mozza, Jonas, Zoltan, Boaz again and Popeye visited patients at Sandwell General Hospital

Kids can get involved and play football with Albion throughout the summer at Powerleague, Park Road, Halesowen, The Wordsley School, Brierley Hill Road, Stourbridge, Wodensborough Community Technology College, Hydes Road, Wednesbury, Tipton Sports Academy, Wednesbury Oak Road, Aston Fields Middle School, Drummond Road, Aston Fields, Bromsgrove, Redhill Foundation School, Junction Road, Stourbridge.

Get your kids down there.

It's good to know Albion haven't lost sight of their traditional Black Country supporting areas and are giving something back.

Baggies and Bathams...the Black Country way

The Real Bully Hoo.

Walthamstow.

I didn't know any of that but it's so encouraging.

TB

Warren,

Another great blog and I couldn't agree more with your assessment. I was one of those vocal numb nuts that questioned GMac's ability having not seen him play (in my defence, my opinion was formed through conversations with an Ipswich fan). He has truly gone from strength to strength and this season he's been incredible. A worthy winner if that is the case.

Just for the record though, I thankfully wasn't one of the pro Roger Johnson contingent. :-)

astleistheking

Good blog that Warren!

Isn't it nice to have many contenders for player of the season. It really is a tough one for me as there are so many angles to look at. Up until Christmas it was Jimmy Morrison as he dictated the attacking play from midfield but has slowed down a little. Ben Foster as you say has saved our bacon on many occasions, and is really happy to play for us too which makes a big impression on me. But for me Big mac is the man as he's very consistent and pops up with a few goals too. Love the song as well!

Anyway I'm off to Cornwall for the week with the dingle in laws so I'm sure a few debates will suffice, although they really don't have much to offer do they?

enjoy all!

Jack ♣ Hat.

Worrow Warren,

My heart bleeds for us Baggy boys, having to trawl through all the worthy contenders for the title of our "Player of the Season" award. Blimey, a real mind bender this one, but with greatest respect for others my vote is for (Drum roll) Claudio Yacob. The separable thing for me is in my opinion, his leadership qualities.

Warren,

Whilst I agree with your sentiments on Demba Ba I would also like to mention another good piece of fortune for us and that is the absence of Tim Krul from between their sticks (Dislocated shoulder) mate.

Lets win this one for Dave Matthews our iconic kit man. Hope the pre-match applause salute is on for him.

Onward and upward with the BAGGIES.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Warren

Good point on Tim Krul Jack, I hope we test the new keeper as much as possible early doors.

I'd forgotten to mention Dave Matthews too, hope he gets the send off he deserves.

Wall Heath Baggie

'Foster has brought a standard and consistency we just did not have with Scott Carson' may just be the greatest understatement of all time .

The vast majority of Newcastle Supporters are law abiding and its is believed that the trouble at the North East derby was caused in the main by thugs who did not attend the game , it must be remembered that St James Park is in the City Center near many drinking establishments , so i think the West Midland Police Horses should be safe Saturday.

As for the game well they need the points more and Mulumbu will be missing which for me highlights the need for the squad to be strengthened in terms of quality and numbers .

As ever COYB.

Warren

Max,

I actually thought of you as I was writing the bit about Carson and chuckled to myself!

As for the toon army, I've got a few Newcastle-supporting friends myself, incuding the next-door neighbour, and I often find them to be warm and good-humoured. The Police horse comment was firmly tongue-in-cheek I promise!

Walthamstow Albion

Great read Warren.

Illustrates what a superb 'team' we have with some fantastic players - not the 'I'm-a-superstar' ego-centric types but honest, professional and right-attitude type of player that puts in a shift, plays as part of a team and continue to take Albion forward. Just a fantastic time to be at the Hawthorns.

Some of the current players remind me of the great 70s team... and I didn't think I'd see a team to compare to those days again.

I can see a lot of the great John Wile in GMac (pure guts, fight and gets his head on the ball first in either box). Foster has just been magnificent - best since J Osborne (RIP). Gains Albion at least ten points a season. Keep it going Ben you are a credit to yourself, WBA and us mate.

Yacob and Mulumbu are just a perfect pairing: 'seek-and-destroy meets energy-and-drive'. Best since the Bryan Robson and Len Cantello axis.

Lukaku is Cyrille all over again.

I can't remember a player that works as hard a Shane Long. Busts a gut every game. Priceless.

Warren, perhaps there's several players of the season.

Baggies and Bathams...the Black Country way...

CantelloRocket 78

Warren, another gud 'un mate, you may be pleased to know I've just voted for you as 'E&S Albion blogger of the year' - I predict a landslide victory, just like Sepp Blatter did when rising above all opposition in his election..........;-)

Anyway, yes G-Mac for 'player of the year', then hopefully the Queen will also him a 'gong' on her forthcoming birthday honours list.

You actually raise a very good point-

when we signed Gareth and Billy Bones, our bandana-wearing pirate raider on the wing, there was much muttering about 'lower division freebies', and 'where's the cheque book, JP?'-

well I'd imagine our Chairman has since had a little smile to himself.

As I've often said, I trust in the guys 'running the ship' to sort out the business, have faith fellow Baggies.......

Now, am yow visiting us this wik, 'cos I'll get a Carling ready in The Vine at 1.00 p.m. sharp if yow am........?

Walthamstow Albion

'Carling ready in The Vine'

Sacrilege that in the Black Country!

Baggies and Bathams...the Black Country way

CantelloRocket 78

Walt,

I know, I know!!

Personally, I've been drinking Bathams for about 35 years, and it's done me no harm...........( debatable ).

If I'm not mistaken, both Warren and previous blogger Jarrod drink chilled lager, I think it'probably a condition in the 'blogger's' contract........

Warren

I do quite like a light ale as it happens and had quite a few last time I saw you in there. Unfortunately it wasn't Bathams as they've never got any!!!

I can only assume you and Walthamstow have emptied the taps by the time I get there.......

CantelloRocket 78

Hic......!!

Wozza, youss me besstestt mate youss ammmm....

whoose round izzz it.......??

Walthamstow Albion

no worries fellas, only pulling yer leg.

Warren: 'I do quite like a light ale as it happens' - Holdens Golden Glow for you mate - get yourself down the The Park Inn Woodsetton. Or try the Ocker Ale (Toll End brewery - Waggon n Osses) in Tipton.

Craddocks in Stourbridge do a lovely light ale too.

Still struggling? there's always the Olde Swan 'original' - a straw-coloured light mild, fairly smooth and tangy - down at Ma Pardoes Netherton.

Anyhow, Holdens and Bathams, got to love even if you don't like real ale - they support the Albion and fly the Albion flag!

Baggies and Bathams...the Black Country way

Warren

Walthamstow

Golden Glow, that's the badger. I had a good run at that when I last popped in The Vine. Still to get to sample the Bathams though.

Judging by your username I'm guessing you're no longer living in the Midlands? I actually live on the edge of Manchester, so home games and weekend visits aside, finding anywhere that stocks Holdens or Bathams is a struggle.

It's mostly Robinsons and Hydes up here, so it's a pint of Unicorn or 1863. Robinsons do one called Old Tom if you're a bit braver, think Gold Label or syrup!!

CR78

But you told Anders that Swedish bloke he was your best mate..........

Warren

CR78,

Thanks for that, as long as I don't get the Mohammed Bin Hammam treatment next time I write a bad one.

Not sure about tomorrow as the other half will be getting ready, I'm more worried about making kick-off!!

Whilst we're on the subject though, and this goes for everyone who posts on here, Jarrod normally promoted a pre and post-match get-together towards the end of the season.

With Manchester United being a Sunday game, I was thinking of mentioning a meet-up before Wigan in next week's blog. Does anybody have any thoughts or objections?

Kev in Mallorca

Warren

Speaking for myself I would prefer drinks and canapeas before or after the Manure game as I'm travelling back then but if everybody prefers the Wigan game that's OK by me as I have a party every time I come back cause "I'm 'oliday".

Adeu

Warren

Kev,

No worries, I'll put it out to vote on the next blog. With Man United being a Sunday I assumed most wouldn't fancy an all-day bender with work in mind.

If it does happen to be Wigan then I'll make myself available for Man United as well if you're around.

'The Class of 68'

Warren .....

..... I surpose we could say it is not a good time to play us, we are due a more positive all round performance, not so much ''this is probably an unfortunate time to play them''.

Good read.

COYB ©

Warren

Cheers for all the comments!

Happy_baggie

Warren - like everyone else I agree with every word and the case for G-Mac is a very strong one - he has been our most consistant player.

However I have another suggestion - many have pointed out the great season had by Yacob & Mulumbu and what a great pairing they are and so in the same way that no one ever voted for Ant OR Dec in the TV awards I nominate Yacob AND Mulumbu for our player of the year and I believe that they deserve the award together for their incredible partnership.

The Real Bully Hoo.

Happy.

In that case what about Gar and Jo?