For the first time in 8 years West Bromwich Albion are back in the second tier of English football and will face all the pitfalls the Championship has to offer as they look to bounce back at the first attempt. This is not completely new territory for the baggies as at the turn of the millennium West Brom were the archetypical yo-yo club as the flicked between the top two leagues via three relegation’s and four promotions but this is a very different Championship since they were here last and the task is a tough one.
There’s only one Big Dave!!!!
The man who will be leading West Brom’s promotion charge is Hawthorns hero Darren Moore. The man affectionately known as Big Dave took over as caretaker manager in May last season when the club was 10 points from safety with six games remaining and relegation a certainty. The baggies were at an all time low, ‘Pulis ball’ had sucked out all the enthusiasm out of the fans and the under-whelming choice of Alan Pardew and the terrible run of form that followed his appointment left the club haemorrhaging fans and there was a massive cloud of negativity hanging over the club that left a bitter taste in the mouth. Despite still finishing bottom the club finished on a high with Darren Moore picking up manager of the month and wins over Manchester United and Tottenham helped Big Dave restore some positivity and hope to the club. Thanks to that run at the end of season and some glowing references from the staff and players, Moore was rewarded with the position full-time and tasked with doing something as a manager that he achieved twice as a player with the club. Promotion to the Premier league.
Following relegation a mass exodus was expected and although some have left many remain. Jonny Evans predictably was the first one out the door, as he signed for Leicester. More unexpected was the departure of Ben Foster, Foster who had earlier stated he would not be looking to leave, handing in a transfer request after interest from Watford, add to that Foster and few other senior players seemingly disappointed with the clubs transfer value of them, believing that the club was preventing them from moving back to the premier league with unrealistic transfer demands. There has been issues. Players refusing to go on pre-season tours. McClean and Dawson among them, McClean eventually getting his move to fellow relegated side Stoke, Dawson remains an Albion player but for how much longer remains to be seen. Departures are still expected to come, Dawson, Rondon (increasingly looking like he’ll be heading North East) forgotten man Chadli, on the back of an impressive World Cup, has a release clause which is expected to be met. There have been arrivals. Sam Johnstone, who impressed on loan at Villa, has arrived from Manchester United to replace Foster. Kyle Bartley, Jonathon Bond, Conor Townsend and Harvey Barnes, who arrives on loan from Leicester City, have all been bought in with Darren Moore still eyeing more signings.
Chances of bouncing back?
According to the bookies West Brom are second favourites for the championship and promotion behind Stoke City, who themselves have so far managed to hold onto some of their best players while adding some good championship talent to their ranks. As mentioned earlier, the Championship is a completely different beast from the last time West Brom were here and it is far more competitive than it ever has been. Teams like ‘Boro, who lost in the playoffs last year and are led by Tony Pulis will be looking to improve on last year, Leeds and Forest have made some impressive signings with the latter taking Wolves’ approach and adding a lot of young Portuguese talent. Villa after a worrying pre-season of money troubles look to have steadied the ship and will be there or thereabouts. Brentford will hope to start the season like they ended the last one with a poor start to last season probably costing them a serious playoff push. The other two relegated sides will also be hoping to bounce straight back and there is the surprise package that the championship always seems to have, that could come from anywhere.
Holding onto players like Jay Rodriguez, Matt Phillips, Jake Livermore, Kieron Gibbs and Ahmed Hegazi is key, add to that young talents of Sam Field, Jonathon Leko, Oliver Burke and Harvey Barnes and the old heads and experience of Chris Brunt and James Morrison would leave West Brom in a very good position to bounce straight back, a lot will depend on the remaining squad once the transfer window has shut on August 9th and how quickly the squad adapts to the demands of the championship and the toils that three games a week brings.
Gut feeling is majority of the squad remains with the like of Dawson, Rondon, Chadli and maybe one more leave and three replacements coming in. The squad looks good enough, a slow start with a strong finish sees West Brom make the Playoffs and from there it is anyone’s guess.