Analysis: Surely the lowest ebb for a generation as West Brom slump
Whoever comes into the hotseat at The Hawthorns in the coming days, Carlos Corberan or a more surprising contender, finds a club at a very low ebb.
Indeed, almost the lowest ebb currently possible – though just single win would take rock-bottom Huddersfield above the beaten and beleaguered Baggies.
The club is currently enduring, without doubt, some of its most difficult days in a generation and more.
Youngsters of an age to only recall good times in the Premier League and promotion pushes in the second tier are being told by elder friends and family that times are not always high-flying.
The turn of the millennium was the last time the Baggies found themselves this deep in the mire – it took until Gary Megson’s March 2000 appointment, and subsequent final-day victory, to just survive another dip to the third tier.
Fast forward 22-and-a-half years, which include some brilliant, spell-binding seasons and memories fans will always hold dear, and there is a very real threat of the Championship trapdoor once more.
Clearly, Albion’s issues run far deeper than whoever comes in as manager and which players are selected to compete.
There is the overarching ownership issue that underpins everything. Obvious financial concerns, a Guochuan Lai loan with repayment deadline drawing ever nearer, stands out among those.
Then there is the football decision-making side of things. Chief executive Ron Gourlay calls the shots on football matters. Beyond the right manager appointment to lift his reputation among Baggies fans – following a Steve Bruce tenure that didn’t work – there are other huge calls to be made surrounding the structure among the backroom team, notably a technical director that is on the CEO’s to-do list.
These are all issues supporters would like to be addressed in the short term, but some, unfortunately, cannot and will not be areas solved in a matter of days, weeks or months.
It must be said it remains relatively early into the season. Ten games is generally an early yardstick to measure a season by, 12 games is plenty, Albion have played 16 – and won just twice.
At this rate they will win just six games this season and that will mean relegation. Something has to change and that change, for now, has to be brought by the new man at the helm. Make no mistake, the confidence and belief has taken blow after blow after blow this season. The players have been subjected, rightly so, to boos on the many occasions they have deemed not to give enough.
Not winning and regularly losing is never a recipe for confidence. When it comes at a side expected to be competing at the other end of the table, at a club with big expectations and traditions then the sapping of belief can become all the more damaging.
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at The Den came about via some painfully predictable shortcomings.
It will probably be best remembered – or, ideally for Albion fans, forgotten – for the Kyle Bartley redemption that did not go to plan. Caretaker boss Richard Beale, in almost-certainly his final match in charge, rolled the dice big style. Six changes, some including Bartley extremely surprising, and omissions in leaving the in-form Martin Kelly and Brandon Thomas-Asante at home.
It started so well. Jed Wallace – a pantomime villain like no other, subjected to some of the most hostility I can recall to an individual – carved out a brilliant assist for John Swift’s opener.
Albion were then hard done by. It was never a free-kick for the hosts’ leveller, but the set-piece was defended poorly.
Millwall were the better side, Albion would have taken the point but then the inevitable happened as the experienced Bartley – who had been excellent in his Blues horrorshow recovery – received two yellows inside 18 minutes. Five minutes later and Tyler Burey dispatched a 90th-minute, which keeper Alex Palmer should have saved.
So painfully predictable.
Blame was rightly laid at Bartley’s door, certainly by supporters, not though by Beale.
There were other costly errors – Darnell Furlong for the opener, Palmer for the winner – others in Okay Yokuslu and Karlan Grant were once more quiet and underwhelming.
The overall picture left Albion down a place to 23rd, with the concern not just on the gap to mid-table obscurity, but the margin to safety from relegation.
By Saturday’s lunchtime visit of Sheffield United there will be a new man at the helm.
Corberan or not, the job could hardly be bigger.