Spyin’ Kop - West Bromwich Albion (A) - Sun 17th May 2009

Posted by E2K on May 13, 2009, 07:33:03 PM

Spyin’ Kop – Barclay's Premier League - West Bromwich Albion (A)



Date: 17th May 2009
K.O: 1.30pm
Venue: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Capacity: 28,003


Football League First Division (old)
Champions: 1919–20
Runners-up: 1924–25, 1953–54

Football League Second Division (old), Division One (modern), Football League Championship
Champions: 1901–02, 1910–11, 2007–08
Runners-up: 1930–31, 1948–49, 2001–02, 2003–04

Division Two (modern)
Play-off Winners: 1992–93

FA Cup
Winners: 1888, 1892, 1931, 1954, 1968
Runners-up: 1886, 1887, 1895, 1912, 1935

Football League Cup
Runners-up: 1967, 1970

FA Charity Shield
Winners: 1920, 1954 (shared with Wolves)
Runners-up: 1931, 1968

Victories in minor cup competitions
FA Youth Cup: 1976
Tennent Caledonian Cup: 1977
Birmingham Senior Cup: 1886, 1895, 1988, 1990, 1991
Staffordshire Senior Cup: 1883, 1886, 1887, 1889, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1924, 1926, 1932, 1933, 1951, 1969 (shared with Stoke City)
Watney Cup: Runners-up: 1971

WBA Club Staff
Manager - Tony Mowbray
Assistant Manager – Mark Venus
First Team Coach – Peter Grant
Goalkeeping Coach – Joe Corrigan
Head of Sports Science – Dan Harris

Form Guide (last six matches)
West Brom: LDLWLW
Liverpool: WWDWWW

Liverpool’s All-Time Record Against West Brom
(Overall) W60 D38 L34
(At The Hawthorns) W22 D18 L18

Most Recent Meetings:
Liverpool 3-0 West Brom (Anfield, November 2008)
West Brom 0-2 Liverpool (The Hawthorns, April 2006)

Betting Guide*
West Brom to win: 15/2
Liverpool to win: 4/11
Draw: 15/4
*Odds correct with http://www.paddypower.com as of 13/05/09

So here we are, another season drawing to a close. Time to take stock.

In less than half an hour, Manchester United will take to the field at the JJB Stadium to (hopefully not) take another step towards retaining their Premiership crown. Make no mistake, it’s going to take something out of the ordinary from Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Hull City over the next week and a half or so to turn this title race in our favour. So, unfortunately, second place looks like being our lot for this season.

But the positives have far outweighed the negatives, have they not? The 1996/97 season was the last time we were involved in the title race with two games to go. That’s twelve long years since the club looked realistic contenders for the League in May, but here we are.

In addition, the gap to the top has been consistently closed since Rafael Benitez took charge in June 2004. A thirty point deficit to Arsenal at the end of the 2003/04 season has been wiped out, with the club set to comfortably finish above the Gunners this season. Even more encouraging is the fact that four points from our last two games will see us finish ahead of Chelsea for the first time since 2002.

That just leaves Manchester United to be overhauled. And there’s no doubt that significant steps have been taken towards that goal this season, not least of which was a double over the Red Devils which yielded us six goals and the sight of a half-empty Old Trafford after 76 minutes. So there is much to be positive about for Liverpool F.C. even if number 19 is not to be for another year (and as a Manchester United supporter who commentates for ITV once said, you never know with Liverpool).

But what of West Bromwich Albion? With all three promoted teams being hotly tipped by many to go down at the start of the season, it is probably no surprise that The Baggies find themselves involved in a relegation dogfight. Still, for a side that looked dead and buried a few weeks ago, they have clawed their way back into the survival race with an impressive six goals in their last two home games against Sunderland and Wigan Athletic.

Is it too late to stage an escape act worthy of comparisons with the 2004/05 season? Can they carry their impressive recent home form into a game against the top scorers in the League? What do they need to do to take the three points against the team with the fewest defeats in the Premiership? I put some of these questions and more to www.westbrom.com moderator dj_emmjee and my friend Ray, who’s a lifelong Baggie.

Many thanks to both for taking the time to answer the questions. Interesting divergence of opinion on Shelton Martis...

1. First off, well done on still being in the hunt for survival two games from the end of the season when all and sundry seemed to have written you off ages ago. What do you reckon the chances are now of a 2004/05-style turnaround?

dj_emmjee: Slim to none, in all honesty. Even if we somehow managed a point against you lot (the thought of it just makes me laugh at the very contemplation that such a miracle could happen,) it will still rest on us getting a rather large win away at Blackburn, and every other team around us completely buggering things up, which again, I don’t see happening. So, I guess we shall see you again in the 2010/2011 season.

Ray: No chance. Too late for that now. I am reminded that its not desperation that can kill you - its hope. I was handling desperation just fine but hope has made its ugly head visible before being smashed at the weekend.

2. Cast your mind back to August and how you felt looking forward to the season ahead. Have things gone pretty much as expected, or were you hopeful of being safe by now? How have your expectations changed as the season has progressed?

dj_emmjee: In all honesty, I expected a relegation dog fight. However given the chances that we have had this season to finish games off, and a number of errors made by both players and manager, then it has cost us dearly. A lot of people seem to be brainwashed into the whole “Well, we play good football,” which I think is a complete farce. We might play “Pretty” football, as opposed to the ugly nature of certain teams in this league, however it is not effective as we don’t have the right type of players to do so, therefore I cant class it as “Good” football. Failure to adapt to different tactics has cost us our place in this league. People blame the chairman for not spending enough on wages etc, which is true don’t get me wrong. But when you know you don’t have the money in the first instance, you set about adapting a different strategy to play a way that suits the squad you do have/can get, and use that to your advantage, surely?

Ray: I thought this year would be better after how well they won the Championship. And I liked the idea of West Brom playing the "right kind of football". Then as the season wore on it started to look ominous when they were being praised for trying to play football the "right way" - which also involved regular defeats. The 2-0 home defeat Stoke in March was when the writing on the wall started to sing to me. The late improvement has shown they aren’t the "worst" team in the Premiership (anyone for Hull?) but its deceptive as well after a season of mediocrity.

3. West Brom seem to have had problems at both ends of the pitch this season. If you were to pinpoint one main reason for the club’s position at the foot of the table, would it be a lack of goals scored or too many conceded?

dj_emmjee: Letting in stupid goals at stupid times, by far. Yes we are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, but in games we have scored, and looked dominant, we have leaked some of the most puerile, pathetic goals you could see due to inept defensive tactics in set plays. Put it this way, Carson is the most effective keeper in the premier league, based on Opta Stats. So the back 4 has definitely been our sore point this season.

Ray: Too many conceded. I weep when I remember some of the defending efforts. Again the 2-0 home defeat to Stoke had "typical" goals where if the opposition needed help to get a goal, the defenders would oblige, including running out to a high ball and seeing it go over your head, running into one of your own players, and using one of Phil Mickelson’s wedges to make a pathetic effort at a clearance. Goals for were hard to come by, but I'd have given up if I had that defence in front of me (Carson) or behind me (everyone else).

4. Your manager, Tony Mowbray, has been committed to having his team pass the ball around while others (e.g. Stoke) have prospered by playing a more direct, physical game. Do you think he was right not to compromise his principles, or do you believe he should have taken on board at least a little bit of what teams like Stoke do in order to ensure survival?

dj_emmjee: You have to admire Mowbray’s principles in terms of how he wants the football to be played. However if it’s not working, do something about it! I wouldn’t for one minute want to sink to the levels of Stoke/Bolton/Hull “kick it in the fucking air and see where it lands,” nonsense, but we could have certainly reverted to some form of Plan B. Playing the way we play is fine when you have the players to do it. But as a good friend of mine pointed out last night, even Arsenal (who Mowbray admires more than any other,) had their hard men. Vieira for example. He used to kick lumps out of opposition to win the ball, and command the attack. This was when Arsenal were in the top spot (with the help of Henry of course!) Now they have reverted to more lightweight players (as we have) and insist on walking the ball into the net (as we do,) and look what they have achieved in the last 4 seasons! Enough said really. You need artists and soldiers. We don’t have the right mix.

Ray: I think he should have adapted to the realities they faced where Stoke type football started to look like it would get more points. Also Bolton have survived for years with the same ugly style. I don’t want West Brom to play "ugly" but I hate it more to get relegated. I also hate the consensus emerging about playing the "right way" which has been used to eulogise Arsenal and Barcelona. Arsenal are now 4 years without a trophy. Barcelona are fab, but West Brom will never be Barcelona.

5. Do you reckon Mowbray is still the right man for the job? If the answer is no, who do you think would be better equipped to manage your club?

dj_emmjee: Yes I do. His first crack at the prem league, and he has already learned a lot, you can tell. Our performances since March have been very encouraging. 2 very good wins at home, unlucky against Pompey and Man City away. If we had played that way since the start of the season, we would have secured around 13th/14th spot already, no problem, and my sphincter wouldn’t be the size of a decimal point at the moment! It’s great being a Baggie!

Ray: Yes I think Mowbray is a decent man, and a good manager within the financial constraints he must operate. West Brom are run financially as a club that might be in the Premiership or Championship so they end up in a limbo not being good for the Premiership, but very strong in the Championship. Up to now anyway...

But if West Brom get off to a bad start next season he'll be let go the way Robson was. The Championship doesn’t like pretty football.

6. Who have been your best and worst performers this season?

dj_emmjee: Best performer I would have to say Brunt, Martis (came in at centre half to cover injury, just a 50grand reject from the SPL, and has been solid as a rock,) but most of all Olsson, our star centre half and future captain.

Worst, Luke Moore and Abdoulaye Meite. A complete waste of a combined 6million quid.

Ray: The worst has been the defence collectively (I know that’s a cop out), particularly every pairing at centre back. They can't kick snow off a rope. If a gun was to my head I'd give the worst award to the no. 24, the defender known as Shelton Martis. Wikipedia have heard of him for the wrong reasons. They couldn’t find anyone else to take him on loan so he was thrown in by March when things couldn’t get any worse at the back?

From Wikipedia - Shelton Martis:

He previously played for SBV Excelsior and FC Eindhoven in the Netherlands before joining English League Two club Darlington in 2005. He moved to Scottish Premier League club Hibernian in August 2006 on a three-year deal. During his season at Hibs he scored three own goals in the first half of the season, and was not highly regarded by the Hibs fans, making several errors. In what was ultimately his last game for the club against Hearts he made an error which led to Hibs being scored against in the first 30 seconds, and he was substituted at half time. Martis signed for West Bromwich Albion by former Hibernian boss Tony Mowbray for £50,000 on 2 July 2007. He made his debut for the club in a 4–2 League Cup defeat against Cardiff City on 25 September 2007. His league debut was in a 2–1 win away at Leicester City on 8 December 2007. In January 2008 Martis joined Scunthorpe United on loan for an initial period of one month. On 31 October 2008, Martis moved to Doncaster Rovers on loan for an initial period of one month to cover for some injured players. He made his Rovers debut in a 0–0 draw against Swansea City on 1 November. He scored his first goal for the Rovers against Ipswich Town on 15 November 2008. Martis made his first Premier League appearance for West Brom on 16 March 2009 against West Ham in a 0-0 draw.

I just have to say WHY Tony, could you not find anyone else. Luke Moore (ex Aston Villa) has also descended into a farce.

In a season like this, its hard to have a best, but I think Greening is honest and hard working, and 2nd would be Paul Robinson who despite some individual errors, is pretty good.

7. Are there any youngsters coming through at The Hawthorns that we might not know about who are giving you hope for the future?

dj_emmjee: Graham Dorrans has already provided us with some solid and inspiring performances this season. He was brought in from Livingston earlier this season to play in reserves, and was hailed as one for the future. We also have a big Kiwi centre forward named Chris Wood. Only 17, 6ft4, powerful. Only made on first team appearance this season, however I think the future is bright for this lad, and could well figure well for us in the 2nd tier next season.

Ray: I don’t know enough about this one. My cynical side says that any unspotted gems get sold too quickly when money is offered (ex West Brom players in Premiership include Kamara, Jason Roberts, Gera (who I loved), and Kilbane (a long long time ago...), and more recently Curtis Davies. Good players don’t stay at the Hawthorns. And Paul McShane left aswell...

8. Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between Liverpool and West Brom, fond or otherwise?

dj_emmjee: We have only managed to get 1 point off you in the last 25 years. As I am only 24, well, you do the maths! Lol

Ray: A 5-0 defeat (04/05) I think hurt the most. Men against boys. I don’t think West Brom believe they can beat Liverpool each season. They seem more afraid of them than Man Utd - even I can remember us giving Utd a few roastings in the late 70s/early 80s (ie 5-3 at Old Trafford with Regis on fire). But of course Man Utd then took Ron Atkinson, Bryan Robson and Remi Moses off us. Bastards.

9. Do you have any favourite chants and perhaps any that require an explanation?

dj_emmjee: Psalm 23 (The Lord’s my Shepherd) is a song we adopted in the 70’s. As games started to be played on a Sunday, the fans back then thought it would be apt, and most of all rather humorous, if we sung hymns on the terraces. Psalm 23 kind of stuck. Traditionally sung after we score, however as that is a severe unlikely event this Sunday, you may not encounter it.

Ray: No, I am happy with thousands of fans going "Boing Boing Baggies Baggies..."

10. How do you see the game shaping up on Sunday? A win is a must for West Brom - what do you think they need to do in order to take the three points?

dj_emmjee: Lock you in the dressing room!

Ray: I think it will be a game of soccer with a football, 22 players, a ref and a football. The team that scores more goals will win. There'll be a man in the hole, half chances and sweet passes...(sorry I could resist piling in some truisms and cliches).

To take the 3 points, it would be nice if Carragher could put Fortune through with one of his "Michele" clearances, NGog should play the 90, Alonso should be in goals and taking the kick outs, Sir Alex should ring Rafa at the start of the game and keep him on the phone for a bout of PSP mind games, Sammy Lee should be centre back. In fact the Liverpool oldies team lining out this week for charity should all get a game. Molby could work around the centre spot, and Hansen could be given our 2 youngest players to test if young fellas can win anything. And Gary Ablett can mark me. I haven’t played enough for WBA this season...Harry Kewell could come back on loan for the warm up and stretches and go off injured then. And Cisse could warm up on loan for the 90 minutes to show off his hair and tatoos.

On a more serious note - West Brom will be up for it, but Liverpool’s class and relentless efforts to stay in the Prem will probably make it about 3-1 to the Pool.

11. This question would have been a bit tougher a few months back, but I’ll ask it anyway: where do you expect West Brom and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League? Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, do you think either of us are going to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and be in the top flight at the start of next season / League champions respectively?

dj_emmjee: I can see us both being shit out of luck, unfortunately. United just look too strong in the face of any threat whatsoever, and, well, we’re fecked!

Ray: West Brom will be 19th, above Hull (and that’s me being optimistic). Liverpool will be 2nd (and that’s being realistic..)

12. Finally, care to predict the score?

dj_emmjee: 3-0 Liverpool . That is a conservative guess!

Ray: 3-1 to the Pool after game resistance by West Brom and probably some bad luck (again) with at least one defensive gift.

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