Comment: West Brom facing a rebuild, but fans are ready to reconnect
It’s sad in some way that the very moment Albion fans finally fell for this team was the exact same moment that consigned it to history.
Having been unconvincing for large parts of the season, the Baggies put on a memorably valiant display full of guts in their final game of the campaign.
They connected with the supporters in the stands like no other point this season, perhaps like no other point in the past five years.
That game will live long in the memory of every Albion fan who attended. The atmosphere will be spoken about in reverential tones for years to come.
It will go down in history as the night the Baggies nearly overcame the odds, thanks to a crowd who were not only the 12th man, but the 13th and 14th too.
After 210 minutes of football against the in-form team of the Championship, a side reduced to ten men ravaged by injuries and suspensions were beaten by the slightest of margins.
Perhaps it’s unfeasible to raise your game to those levels every single match, but had the Baggies played with that much heart all season, the campaign could have ended much differently.
But just as this team won over the supporters whole-heartedly with such a whole-hearted performance, it is now expected to be broken up.
Loanees like Dwight Gayle, Stefan Johansen and Mason Holgate – who gave everything they had – would be welcome additions in the summer, but there’s no guarantee they will stay.
Jay Rodriguez, Ahmed Hegazi, Matt Phillips, Rekeem Harper, Kieran Gibbs and Craig Dawson could all have Premier League suitors.
Last summer’s plan to keep the squad together is unlikely to be replicated this time around.
The Baggies are facing a rebuild and need to reduce their wage bill to something more manageable in the second tier.
But, if done correctly, resetting the club in such a manner should be cause for optimism and excitement rather than worry and strife.
Albion may not have the benefactor backing them that either of their rivals Villa and Wolves have, with absent Chinese owner Guochuan Lai still unwilling to invest funds.
But they will be financially competitive in the Championship next season with parachute payments dwindling from £41.5m to £34m, a shortfall in theory, easily made up by player sales.
Appointing a new head coach with fresh ideas could reinvigorate Albion for the next chapter.
The vibrant atmosphere on Tuesday night proved the supporters are ready to be given something to cheer, ready to reconnect with their club.
All they need is a team and a man at the helm who share their hunger.