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West Bromwich Albion FC / Summer transfer window opinions
« on: August 09, 2018, 05:23:30 PM »
While the loan window is still open, and we could still technically make permanent signings with conditions attached, the "main" summer window has now closed. So what's everyone's opinion of our summer business?

Johnny Evans left a couple of weeks ago for around £3.5 million, in what looks like one of the bargains of the summer for Leicester. Many in the local media, and also fans after reading the rationale, were frustrated but understood the reasons why the club put the option in the contract, as it allowed us to sign a top class centre half who was used to winning things in his career.

We have however since found out that at least 4 players have these relegation release clauses in their contracts and this is now resulting in a real period of uncertainty, as the club know that these players could leave on the final day of the window with us having no power to stop them, but equally they might all end up having to stay and we may have spent a lot of money on replacements, going over budget and hurting our FFP position.

Due to the lack of structure at the club, and the continued poor recruitment by Lai's administration (Terraneo being the latest example), it is hard to imagine that the club are going to pull a few rabbits out of the hat in the final month of the window and somehow clear the decks while recruiting a number of successful replacements.

It has got me thinking about the apparant recent culture at the club to offer release clauses in players contracts, and if this was a wise decision. Now some will argue that we had to offer it to get these players (including the local media), but as far as I can see, neither Swansea nor Stoke are in this position and yet they also signed a number of very good players in recent years, so clearly release clauses were not something we HAD to offer so freely.

Instead, it appears this was a risky choice the club chose to include in players contracts in the Tony Pulis era, possibly even driven by Pulis himself. Pulis after all had a lot of power at the club (if the reports are true), and he would have known that if we were to be relegated, he would have been sacked anyway so would not have needed to deal with the risk associated with these contracts. He would only get the benefits, ie, getting the players over the line without letting negotiations drag on.

It is this short term thinking which puts the club in the long term in a dangerous position, and proves just how important a director of football or technical director is.

A manager only thinks about his (or her) short reign (average 2 years). They don't care about the bigger picture, just their own success. Had a competent director of football  been in place and had the final say, I doubt that so many players would have had these release clauses as the director of football would have recognised the position the club may have been put in should we get relegated.

Now however, we sit here in the final 4-5 weeks of the transfer window, with 3 ticking time bombs on our books in Hegazi, Rondon and Chadli, all with a 50-60% chance of having their release clause met, and others like Dawson putting in transfer requests. We probably need 1 back up goalkeeper, atleast 1 more centre back (but equally we might need 2 or 3 if Hegazi and Dawson go), another wide man, another central midfielder and maybe 2 more strikers. All of this because we do not have full control of our own destiny this window.

Next time you think "why do we need a director of football", remember the short term thinking of the Tony Pulis era, and remember the position we sit it now, feeling very unstable and unable to plan. Directors of football are vital.

West Bromwich Albion FC / So was our last decade a success?
« on: April 14, 2018, 06:39:35 PM »
With our latest 8 year stay in the top flight about to come to an end, I have been looking back at the last decade and trying to work out if it has been a success, and what exactly "success" looks like in the modern game for a club like us.

On the day that Burnley near enough confirmed they will be playing in the Europe next season, it reminds me of why I wanted us to become "established" back when we were a yo-yo club.

I had 3 core reasons for wanting us to be established.

1, I wanted to see players pull on the blue and white shirt who in years to come I could look back on as being top class players, not just having to hear stories of our great sides of the 50's, 60's, 70's and early 80's.

2, I wanted to see us challenge for a cup competition, seeing us reach finals like we did up until the early 70's.

3, I wanted to see Albion in Europe

Now seems as good a time as any to look at our results.

I feel fairly satisfied about point 1, but the failure in cups and to reach Europe is a sucker punch for me.

I have had a look at the record of the other "established clubs" in the last 16 years since our 1st promotion to the rebranded premier league and it seems near enough everyone has enjoyed at least one of those two things.



Southampton (2 cup finals)
Swansea (winners)
Birmingham (winners)
Villa (2 cup finals)
Wigan (2 cup finals, 1 win)
Blackburn (2 cup finals, 1 win)
Portsmouth (2 cup finals, 1 win)
Middlebrough (2 cup finals)
Hull City
West Ham


Burnley (provided Sothampton fail to win the cup)


Cardiff (3 finals)
Crystal Palace

In fact, looking back over the least 16 years, near enough every team who can say they have had an established run in the premier league seems to have managed a cup final, european football, or both.

The only 2 who I can think of who haven't managed it are us and Charlton - the old byword for a club who were established in the premier league but achieve nothing (and even Charlton can claim a 7th placed finish, which on a different year would have seen them qualify for europe).

With recent rule changes meaning FA Cup runners up no longer qualify for Europe, it does make it more difficult for more clubs to reach Europe, so it may be other ckubs also struggle more, however as seen this year it is entirely possible.

Wolves latest promotion stands every chance of finally being the one that sees them have an extended stay in the top flight for the 1st time since the 70's. You feel the success of the other "established teams" over the last few decades should give their's and also Bournemouth's fans some confidence that they too are looking at European football or a cuo final appearance in the next few years.

As we go down, I feel we are now the new Charlton Athletic, a club who just didn't show enough ambition or didn't have enough luck to really leave a mark on their time in the league.

West Bromwich Albion FC / EFL Trophy squad
« on: July 22, 2016, 02:06:32 AM »
It has not been without controversy and it will not be to everyone's tastes, but our under 23's will be competing in the EFL (Johnstone's paint) Trophy this season. On a personal level, I am actually looking forward to seeing our youngsters compete in genuine competitive action, and I hope to get along to a game or two. I have therefore tried to compile what our squad will be this season.

It may well be that we send more of our academy out on loan, as are Pulis' wishes, but for now I'll try to guess what our squad will be for the trophy.

With 21 year old Jack Rose possibly out on loan at Cheltenham and with 20 year old Alex Palmer also on loan trial at Hibernian, it might be between five (Yes five more!) keepers for the squad.

Ethan Ross - 19 - Ethan Ross has spent time out on loan at Worcester City.
Jasko Keranovic - 18 - Bosnian-Australian Keeper from the under 23 squad. A Bosnia youth international.
Brad House - 17 - Signed from Arsenal in the summer of 2015
Bobbie Biddle - Under 18 academy goalkeeper signed from Birmingham City
Adam Przybek - Under 18 academy player with England age level caps


Shaun Donnellan (19) (Stevenage) and Callam Jones (20) (Accrington) out on loan, 2 of our most senior under 23 defenders are out on loan so probably ineligible. Of the rest, we have:

Kyle Howkins - 20 - Centre half who featured in the pre-season friendly vs PSG.
Jack Fitzwater - 18 - One of the only academy players taken on the Netherlands' pre-season tour, he has also spent time out on loan at Chesterfield and then Hednesford.
Kane Wilson - 16 - The youngest of our academy players in pre-season in the Netherlands, right back Kane Wilson is an England youth international and so far the most advanced of our under 18 defenders.
Danny Barbir - 18 - USA youth international who we took after he had trials at Man City.
Robbie McCourt - 18- Ireland youth international defender, from our link up with St Kevin's Boys club from Dublin
Dara O'Shea - 17 - Ireland youth international, from our link up with St Kevin's Boys club from Dublin.
Callum Pritchatt - 18 - Under 23 squad defender
Max Melbourne - 17 - Brother of the late Blake Melbourne, tragically lost to cancer while a player in our academy
Panagiotis Artymatas - 17 - Cyprus youth international signed in the last 12 months, having had trials at Chelsea
Jordan Piggott - 17 - Defender from the under 18 squad
Taylor Morrison - 16 - Defender from the under 18 squad


Jonathan Leko - 17 - England youth international Leko may well be a regular in our first team next season, but at 17, it is not inconceivable that he could drop into the EFL trophy squad in weeks he is not making the first team squad.
Sam Field - 18 - Clearly rated by the club, Field made his first team debut at the end of last season and has been played in midfield and defence for the first team this pre-season.
Kyle Edwards - 18 - England youth international winger
Zack Elbouzedi - 18 - Irish youth international playmaker
Joe Ward - 19 - Under 23 squad playmaker who has spent a short amount of time out on loan at Kidderminster.
Rahis Nabi - 18 - Brother of Adil and Samir, Rahis is an England youth international.
Alex Bradley - 17 - Anglo-Finnish under 18 player who has represented Finland at youth level
Sameron Dool - 17 - Anglo-Indian under 18 midfielder
Dan Meredith - 16 - Scottish youth international
Brad Sweeney - 18 - Midfielder from the under 23 squad
James Smith - 18 - Midfielder from the under 23 squad
Chay Scrivens - 18 - Midfielder from the under 23 squad
Aram Soleman - 16 - Following in the footsteps of Adil Nabi, Samir Nabi, Rahis Nabi, Yan Dhanda and Sameron Dool, Aram is the latest in a long line of Anglo-Asian players to come out of the Albion academy in recent years.
Rekeem Harper - 16 - Midfielder from the under 18 squad
Sam Wilding - 16 - Midfielder from the under 18 squad
Mylo Hall - 16 - Midfielder from the under 18 squad

Forward line:

Tahvon Campbell (19) is potentially going out on loan to Walsall, while Andre Wright, having already had loan spells at Kidderminster and Torquay will probably also go out on loan again. I expect therefore that we might use the under 18 squad in the EFL Trophy:

Tyler Roberts - 17 - Welsh youth international who has already made first team appearances. Provided he does not go out on loan, this would be a great opportunity for him to get some "first team" experience.
Evan Pierce - 17 - Ireland youth international striker, from our link up with St Kevin's Boys club from Dublin
Marcus Forss - 17 - Finland youth international striker
Kieran Holsgrove - 16 - Welsh youth international forward signed from Liverpool
Nick Clayton-Phillips - 16 - Striker from the under 18 squad who has been with the club for 10 years and is a big WBA fan.
Cameron Walker - 16 - Striker from the under 18 squad

What do West Brom, Preston, Gillingham, Sheff Utd, Rochdale, Bury, Northampton Town, Plymouth, Accrington,  Leyton Orient, Exeter, Crawley and Hartlepool all have in common?

Out of the current 92 league clubs, these are the unlucky 13 who have not contested a football final since the 1970-71 season.

Looking at the FA Cup semi final line up, you can't help but feel we have thrown away another chance of finally getting back to our 1st first team final since 1970.

Next season, If I could have one wish, it would be that we actually prioritised cup football and try to give ourselves something to really remember for our fans. This season proves more than any that if you really go for it, you can have a season to remember. 

West Bromwich Albion FC / Will any manager take the league cup seriously?
« on: September 23, 2015, 09:43:18 PM »
When we were trying to establish ourselves in the premiership in the mid 2000's, I always felt that the big bonus of becoming an established premiership side would be that a, we get to see some club legends pass through our doors over time and then b, we would be able to really go for it in a cup competition and have a realistic chance.

Well, with half a decade under our belts in this league, why haven't we started giving it a real go in the league cup? Since the turn of the century, Villa, Blues, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Blackburn have all made the final, while in the same time in the FA Cup, Southampton, Millwall, West Ham, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Everton, Stoke, Wigan and Villa again have also been to the final.

That's 13 different teams OUTSIDE of the big 7 who have managed to get to a final. I remember doing the stats a few years ago in a similar type of post and at that time, over half of the Football league's 92 teams had been to a final since our last one in 1970. So why aren't we putting more effort to go for glory in a domestic cup competition?

Am I the only one who thinks that today's line up was at best, a wasted opportunity and at worst, a disgraceful surrender?

I know people will quote to me the facts about wanting to stay in the league and how Blues were relegated blah blah blah, but what is the point in being in the top flight if we do not aim for the small glories that we might get?

Yet another year, yet another manager who puts no value in going out to win something.

General Football & Sports / Albion Alumni thread
« on: August 15, 2015, 10:24:19 PM »
Inspired by the threads this summer about Albion youth players progress after they leave us, and the fact that there is no where to report on their progress on here, I thought I would create this thread.

To start it off, Keemar Roofe scored his second 20+ yard goal in a week today for Oxford. Things seem to be going very well for him.Have any others scored this week?

General Football & Sports / The way the modern game is going
« on: July 27, 2015, 11:45:19 PM »

How Midtjylland took the analytical route towards the Champions League

One year on from the Brentford owner Matthew Benham taking an interest, the Danish club, are Superliga champions and four games away from the Champions League group stages

There is a story they tell at Midtjylland, the small Danish club that went from close to bankruptcy to lifting their first Superliga title in one exhilarating headrush of a season, which has echoes of Hans Christian Andersen. Two centuries ago there were wolves on the Jutland peninsula, which is why there is a red wolf on the club’s badge. They had long died out in Denmark but two years ago they suddenly appeared again. “We took it as a sign that the wolves could rise up,” says the club’s brand manager, Soren Marcher. “And now we have.”

This season Midtjylland aim to prowl into the heart of Europe. On Tuesday night they play the first leg of a Champions League third qualifying round tie against Apoel of Cyprus, having defeated Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar 3-0 on aggregate in their first taste of the competition. Come through that, and a final two-leg match on the early-season trans‑Europe express, and they will be in the Champions League proper for the first time. “We would love to get to the group stages,” the majority shareholder, Matthew Benham, admits. “We know it is a tall order but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Midtjylland are not yet on the radar of most English football fans, but Benham increasingly is. The 47-year‑old Brentford owner made millions at his company, Smartodds, using mathematical models to predict football results and believes the figures can also provide a vital edge in the transfer market and on the pitch. Brentford’s former management team, Mark Warburton and David Weir, did not buy into that theory. Midtjylland, however, were more amenable – and, arguably, successful.

The club’s chairman, Rasmus Ankersen, describes what has happened since Benham invested £6.2m last July as “a fairytale”. But the introduction of specialist kicking coaches, in-game statistics for half-time team talks and the use of analytics for set pieces is Midtjylland’s new reality. As their Denmark defender Erik Sviatchenko puts it: “Matthew is the x-factor. His money is hugely important. But his use of statistics and mathematics is the extra thing that gives us the advantage. It is like Moneyball.”

When I watched Midtjylland effectively secure the title with a 2-0 win over FC Copenhagen in May at their packed 11,000-seat stadium the mood was pinch-yourself-giddy, especially after Pione Sisto – a brilliant 20-year-old – made the game safe with a fantastic second goal, backheeling the ball between his legs, spinning and almost inviting two opposition players to follow him out of the penalty box like a piped piper, before curling a brilliant shot into the far corner. The team were well organised in a 4-1-4-1 formation and played lots of neat one-touch football but it was also noticeable how often they went close from set pieces.

The club believe that is not down to chance. Impressively, nearly half of their goals last season came from set pieces, a strike rate that ranked up with Atlético Madrid as the best in Europe. Much of the work is done by the assistant manager Brian Priske – who played for Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp and 24 times for Denmark – who runs the club’s “set-piece lounge”, in which stats, files and video clips are scrutinised and routines devised.

Almost half of FC Midtjylland's goals last season came from set pieces, with their assistant manager Brian Priske running a 'set-piece lounge' at the club. “It involves hours of hard work in the meeting rooms and on the pitch, and the use of Smartodds’ statistics as well,” explains Priske. Tim Sparv, the team’s tall Finnish defensive midfielder, says those meetings not only include key players but that Ankersen and Benham, also chip in via Skype. “One time Matthew showed us a YouTube clip of a corner from 20 years ago and wondered whether it might be revived,” he said. “It was nice to see him getting involved so much – it shows how much he wants us to succeed.”

Midtjylland also employ Bartek Sylwestrzak, a specialist kicking coach, to work with their best players from under-14 level to the first team. Twice a month he analyses how each player strikes the ball and devises training programmes that players work on in their spare time. Cynics will scoff. But if Jonny Wilkinson felt he benefited from a kicking coach is it so outlandish that footballers might do the same?

The club also use bespoke statistics to provide their coach with a more objective view of matches. After some persuasion the sports director, Claus Steinlein – a former professional footballer – lets me see the sort of text message their analytics experts send to the coaches at half-time and full-time. Amid the acronyms, two stats stand out: each team’s chances and half-chances, and the expected score based on the quality of those chances. The thinking is simple: football is a low-scoring game and so missed chances, luck, or bad refereeing decisions mean a stronger team win less often than in many sports, so such data should give coaches a more accurate assessment of how the scoreline reflects the match.

Analytical models are also central in Midtjylland’s search for new players. As Steinlein explains, the club could use the database to find any two-footed left-back in the world of a certain standard, aged 22-26, who has not been injured for the previous 18 months – while the recent addition of player-tracking data gives them a further advantage. “Before we had one scout – and he spent half his time coaching,” explains Steinlein. “Now we have a team in London crunching the numbers and suggesting suitable targets. We have gone from using our heart to using our brain.”

FC Midtjylland’s rise has been rapid since Matthew Benham invested, going from near-bankruptcy to their first Superliga title in the space of one season.

This summer they have signed the Danish defender Kian Hansen, who started 28 league games for Nantes in Ligue 1 last season, and the Austria Wien winger Daniel Royer, who is also a full Austrian international, thanks to their mathematical models. They will be worth keeping a close eye on in the year ahead. “Not everything we do is perfect,” admits Steinlein. “Sometimes we find that two plus two equals five. But the computer guys have given us a new way of thinking.”

Ankersen, though, who also recently took on the role as Brentford’s director of football, admits there is a balancing act between revealing some of what they do without giving too much away. “Matthew likes to go under the radar with our secrets,” he laughs. “But at the same time we want to be known as the two most innovative clubs in Europe, because that way we can more easily attract good players and experts.”

No wonder Midtjylland, who only have the third or fourth largest budget in the Superliga, have become a poster club for analytics in football – but there is more to their success than Benham’s influence, or Smartodds, or its use of analytics. When the Englishman arrived last July much of the groundwork was in place and the club already had a highly regarded academy, one which brought through the Denmark international Simon Kjaer and West Ham’s Winston Reid. A group of talented youngsters, including Sisto – who has attracted interest from major clubs in Spain, England and Germany – were also making waves. The team were already good. They are better now.

Much of what the club do is not rocket science, however. The players get homework on DVD or a USB stick. They eat healthy diets and almost never drink or eat sweets during the season – something that sounds obvious but it is not always common. When the Brentford youth player Montell Moore joined Midtjylland on loan he asked why there were no sweets in the dressing room, as there were in London.

The fresh thinking extends to psychology. Sviatchenko, the team’s best defender, believes that using the mind coach Rene Petersen – whose time at the club predates Benham – has made a big difference. “He has helped me a lot,” he says. “As a 19-year-old I was asking myself: ‘What I am fundamentally as a defender. Am I John Terry or am I David Luiz? And when does Good Erik and Bad Erik appear?’ He helped with that.”

Petersen uses unusual methods to bring the squad together. Last year he asked the players to analyse each other using different colours. Yellow was more creative. Green someone who cares for other people’s feelings. Blue applied to structure. Red to someone who wanted to win at any price. “We had to give coloured cards to each player in the squad based on what we thought they were like,” says Sviatchenko. “It really helped because afterwards we talked about how best to speak to each player. It’s on a different level and it has helped us this year.”

However, the club were rocked to the core last month when their inspirational coach Glen Riddersholm, who had guided them to the league title, handed in his resignation after returning from holiday. Long-running tensions with Steinlein, rather than any beef with Benham, were rumoured to be the reason. The club have selected Jess Thorup, Denmark’s highly regarded Under-21 coach, as his replacement, but Troels Bager Thogersen, the editor-in-chief of the Danish football magazine Tipsbladet, points out that some of the wounds are still raw.

“Riddersholm had been with the club for four years and was well liked by the players,” he says. “They aren’t happy that he has gone. The next few weeks will be a crucial test for Benham and Ankersen because the strong team chemistry helped win them their first title ahead of schedule.”

Ankersen is confident, though, that there is a more improvement to come from not only Midtjylland’s players, but also his backroom team of analytics wizards. “Football is very conservative, which means there are a lot of inefficiencies we can exploit,” he says. “And we have only just started the journey.”

Am I over reacting to feel we have really slipped behind most other premier league clubs this summer?

I know the market is difficult at the moment, but this is where good negotiators and transfer market tacticians come in. I worry with us having no football director and Tony Pulis doing everything, we are going to fall behind in some ways.

If you look at similar sized (or placed) clubs, you realise they have acted quickly, and seemingly on paper, very well.

Swansea have signed Champions League quality forward Andre Ayew, Franck Tabanou, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Eder and Ollie McBurnie

Stoke have signed Joselu, Marco van Ginkel, Jakob Haugaard, Shay Given, Philipp Wollscheid, Glen Johnson and Moha El Ouriachi

West Ham have signed Pedro Obiang, Darren Randolph, Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna

Aston Villa have signed Scott Sinclair, Indrissa Gueye, Micah Richards and Mark Bunn

Leicester have signed Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth and Shinji Okazaki.

Bournemouth have signed 7 players, Watford 6 and Crystal Palace's one signing is champions league quality Yohan Cabaye.

In the Ashworth era, our transfers always ticked over at a respectable rate during the summer window and we were always one step ahead of everyone else, signing good quality players, usually at lower prices than our opposition. This year however, with the new challenges we have faced, I worry we have yielded our advantage and are really undermining out chances in the coming season.

We have signed 1 player from a League 1 club, and the season starts this time next month. We need to hurry up, else I worry where we will be ten games in.

West Bromwich Albion FC / It really was all Ashworth wasn't it
« on: December 30, 2014, 12:41:33 AM »
In his time here, fans often debated the influence of Dan Ashworth at the club. Some saw him as a "super scout", some a good organiser, others thought he took all the credit for what was at the time a seemingly well oiled machine behind the scenes where the right decisions were made more often than not.

Whatever he was, the last 2 years have proven that it really WAS ALL ASHWORTH when he was here. Since he has left, our transfer dealings have become a farce, our managerial appointments have made no sense, leaks have been coming out of the club about how disenchanted the players are with coaches like Mel and we have seen the first genuine protests against the club since the half-arsed protest at the end of the great surrender season under Robson.

While he may well have not been out there personally selecting all of the players we signed or making every decision, what he must have been doing was having the final say on the RIGHT deals and knowing where to step in when something was not a good idea. He set up a philosophy and structure that saw us scouting the correct players and spending money sensibly. He researched managers and was able to rein in Jeremy Peace's arrogant, stupid ideas. What was key, he understood what the Head Coach role was and brought in people like Roy Hodgson, Roberto Di Matteo and Steve Clarke and all of them had some success while in charge. They were the right people for that time.

Since he has gone, the wheels have fell off. Countless payers signed, the vast majority being flops, 4 managers have been sacked, we had a month long managerial search this time last year, excessive prices paid for footballers who were not worth what we were paying, lazy scouting, racism problems and a breakdown in relations with the fans.

History is showing that Dan Ashworth was the ONLY reason we ended up staying in the premier league over the last few years. Now he is gone, we are in trouble.

After all the talk before round one, Alan Irvine proved to be just as conservative as every other manager we have had in recent years when it comes to the cup. Avoiding my urge to ask "why bull s*** to the fans?", I would be fascinated to know what the fans feel we should do after weighing up the pro's and cons.

The club are setting up the Albion Assembly to canvas fans opinions, so maybe now seems the perfect opportunity to ask what we should do with the cup competitions.

The positives:

I am firmly in the pro camp. At the moment we are a club who simply fight just to exist in the top flight, with no real end goal. We are not going to win the title or make the Champions League, and after so many years you will end getting relegated anyway. In the future, when you look back at your time watching Albion, you are far more likely to remember the year you won a cup competition rather than the 5 or 6 years you had finishing 14th place in the premier league. Hull, Birmingham, Wigan, Swansea, Bradford, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Stoke, West Ham and Sunderland have all proved it is very possible to get to a major cup final and once, an once you are there, anything can happen in 90 minutes. I worker out some time last year that since our last final over 44/45 years ago, over half of the 92 league clubs have been to a major final. That places us in the same pool as the likes of Accrington Stanley, Walsall and Port Vale. It is about time we were back in a cup final.


In recent years Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland, Swansea and Portsmouth have struggled while focussing on cup competitions, be it during the cup run or sometimes after due to burn out (Swansea, Spurs and Blues 3 good examples). In a time where premier league survival is worth so much, it is a risk to focus on cup competitions knowing you could pick up injuries or fatigue players only a few days before a weekend game in the league. There is also the problem of squad rotation, with the cup competitions, especially the league cup allowing for new players signed in the summer to stake their claim to get into the team for the league run.

So, when considering everything, do you think it is worth it taking the risk on playing a near full strength side in one of or both the cup competitions in an attempt to win one of them?

On a personal level, I would like to see us before the season focus on 1 of the competitions and sacrifice another. Lets just go for one of them please!


It hasn't really be advertised, but I thought I should let you know that WBA ladies (Sporting clubs Albion ladies to be exact) face off against Wolves Ladies this Sunday at the Grove, the home ground of Halesowen Town. Kick off is 2 pm.

Both teams are in the Women's Premier league (confusingly, the 3rd tier) and ff people are free Sunday afternoon, I would recommend it.

It would be good to see a good attendance there in the Black Country derby.

It is a tie we can win. Lets really go for it now.

West Bromwich Albion FC / WBA transfer window analysis
« on: September 01, 2014, 11:07:33 PM »
So with our window over, what are peoples opinions on our summer in's and out's?

Losing Billy Jones on a free and being forced to sell the spoilt brat George Thorne (continuing a worrying trend of losing our best academy products) was frustrating, but the majority of the other outs, such as Lugano, Vydra and Amalfitano were probably for the best.

As for the ins, we have signed 11 players, before today that was more than any other club in the top flight (it might still be).

Personally, I feel we have strengthened the defence well, as long as Lescott stays fit. Macauley and Olsson are getting older and older now and Lescott is no spring chicken, but for this year, it should suffice. Signing 4 full backs, all who look okay, is good news.

I like the midfield signings in the main. Gardener is ok and gives us another option in the centre of midfield, while Baird gives us extra back up in a number positions, even if I wonder if he was really necessary with Liam O'Neil available to do the same thing. I like the fact we have managed to get Silvestre Varela as he has a very good pedigree and he is the out and out winger we have been crying out for for a few years now. I have a lot of faith in this signing. Sebastian Blanco is more of a gamble but is no less exciting, he may well provide a bit of entertainment and if he can fit into the English football style, we may have a gem at a low price.

My only concern is the forward line. With only Victor Anichebe and Saido Berahino left after last season, we were in an urgent need of goals. The 2 signings we have made have big question marks over them and I do worry we have not bought goals. Ideye Brown is an ok buy, if a bit expensive. His scoring record seems to be ok although Nigeria fans seem to swear that he is not a goal scoring striker. The early evidence is that he will need time to fit in after a few average performances in the last few games, but he has time. I would have preferred us to add a second goalscoring striker to play it safe due to Berahino being so unproven and Anichibe not being a goal scorer, but instead we have gone for the mercurial Georgios Samaras, a player who I do have a soft spot for but one who has never been a goalscorer.

I think the forward line is the only let down in this window, as the majority of signings have been good and show we have learned from the catastrophe of last year. Over all I think we have the squad to stay up this year, I just hope we have the manager.

I know it is very early days, but it looks like we are going to wrap up our summer dealings with 4 senior(ish) genuine forwards on our books. They are Victor Anichibe, Saido Berahino, Brown Ideye and Georgios Samaras, so it is time for a bit of analysis.

I am always prepared to stick my neck out on the line and put my opinions on record, and I have said since signing Samaras that I was not sure if he was actually what we needed at Albion this summer with many people feeling fans like myself were "writing him off before he has kicked a ball". Personally, I am actually quite a big Samaras fan, in that he always entertains me and I think he is a strangely exciting player to have, but I felt that he was not quite the missing piece we needed for OUR attacking jigsaw.

The reason for this is that I feel we lack goals in the forwards we currently have, and adding another striker not known for scoring large amounts of goals wasn't quite what we needed.

Today's showing can not be taken as any real proof, as the first team will have far more creativity and it is early in the season, but Berahino has so far failed to convince me that there is a premier league striker developing in him, and Brown Ideye also hinted that he could take time to develop here this season, not even taking into consideration the fact that many Nigerian fans do not see him as their main goalscorer when he plays but rather a support forward (in a similar way England fans viewed Emile Heskey in his prime at Leicester and Liverpool).

So, do our front 4 have enough goals in them to satisfy our needs this season? I personally feel that they are our weakest area, and I am hoping that the likes of Gardener, Sessgnon, Morrison, Brunt, Dorrans and Varela can chip in with a reasonable amount of goals this season to help us pick up enough wins to stay up.

Am I looking at this the wrong way?

West Bromwich Albion FC / Sporting Club Albion Women
« on: June 15, 2014, 07:23:25 PM »
With a lot of discontent and fans considering if they will be going up at all next season after Peace's latest attempt to take the mick out of the fans, one option people may want to consider for the odd game is watching WBA's women's team, Sporting Club Albion.

SCA Women play in the third tier of the football pyramid, equivalent of league 1, called the  "Championship Nothern premier division" (There are 2 summer leagues called the super league with the 18 Elite women's teams included).

Home games are played at Halesowen Town's home ground, The Grove on Old Hawne Lane and in our division are sides such as Wolverhampton Wanderers (surely the game that will be most enjoyable to watch), Newcastle United, Notts Forest and Stoke City.

I know male football fans turn their noses up at women's football, but it is only like going to watch non league football and the standards are getting better with professionalism coming in at the top 2 levels. If fans do not want to pay £40 quid next season to watch WBA continue to self destruct, but still want to keep supporting West Brom, this might be an option for a game or two next season. The good new is that the money you spend getting in (it will only be a few quid), will no doubt go into the coffers of the Albion Foundation community project, and not the club. I think I might pay a few visits next season in between the odd Albion away/cup game and non league football/rugby.

There is a funny picture doing the rounds on twitter of a gurning Terry Burton, captioned "And you thought Garlick did a bad job".

It is too early really to judge Burton but it is hard to argue that his first move as "technical director" is a very bad sign for the future. The local media fawned when Terry Burton was given the job, for reasons only they know (maybe he is a nice bloke who talks to them and makes their jobs easier). Either way, we were told he was the sort of man to get things back on track after a quite dreadful and direction-less season.

My personal feelings were that it was good news we had moved somebody in to help/replace/move aside the rabbit in the headlights Richard Garlick but less fawning over a 61 year old with no experience in the role and who is engrained in old fashioned ideas of English football from late 1970's and the 1980's. The managerial search did little to allay my worries that we had hired a man with maybe a more old fashioned view of English football with him looking at the likes of Tim Sherwood but Alan Irvine seems to be an even more alarming sign.

I can only imagine that Irvine has been brought in because we are trying to replicate the success Hodgson had at the club, playing a more defensive based game where we look at safety first rather than looking to have a bit of the maverick about us. Irvine has probably pointed to the fact his sides at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday liked to defend and play very narrow. How they can however ignore his quite awful record at both clubs and the negative reviews from both clubs leads me to believe that Burton has obviously spoken to his fellow contacts (from a similar era of English football) who know Irvine personally and have put in a good word for him because they like the bloke rather than his terrible track record in management.

With this first decision made, can we trust that Terry Burton is going to make the right judgements when it comes to players? Are we likely to now see a group of players join us that lack imagination or creativity? Will we see a number of signings that tick 1980's English football attitudes of being big fast and strong rather than having key attributes for the modern game?

We needed a man with modern ideas about the modern game to lead us forward after Ashworth left. Instead, I fear we have employed somebody deeply rooted in the failings of English football over the last 30 years and who is not fresh enough to come up with the ideas that we need to keep us one step ahead of our similar positioned opposition in the premier league (the likes of Southampton, Leicester, Sunderland and Stoke).

One of the things that has had little discussion in the last few months, and appears more interesting now, is how many new people have taken over key roles in the the club in the last 8 or 9 months.

At the end of April last year, we hired Stuart White (Twitter name @woollywhite) as the head of scouting at the club. Accordingly to an Express and Star article when he joined, he was described as a "former head of UK Recruitment" and his twitter bio/profile reads that he is also employed as the Opposition Assessment Scout for England/The FA.

As well as Stuart White, Dave McDonough took over as our head statistician, or director of performance and scouting as he is also now called. Mcdonough has an impressive CV having worked with Rafa Benitez at Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan.

November also saw Mark Gillett get a promotion from club doctor to director of performance. He has worked at Good Hope hospital before moving to WBA. Also in April last year Simon Carrington took over as the clubs legal secretary.

Today has seen a lot of talk about those who are making the decision on who becomes our new manager and from what the local journalists have said, the 5 man interview panel is Jeremy Peace, Richard Garlick, Mark Jenkins, joined by Dave Mcdonough and for some reason, head medical man Mark Gillett. I would also imagine that Carrington and White have some say in the managerial search just as they do in the transfer window.

Now looking at a few of the people there, it is hard to argue against their profiles with Mcdonough especially impressive, however we have still seen a shift in the clubs operation with a transfer window that looked haphazard and disjointed, and now a managerial search which is starting to look lacking in a clear vision.

I wonder if the amount of changes made at the top of the club has caused a bit of a problem for the smooth running of our operation? Could it be maybe that they are struggling to bed in to their new roles and this is causing the long delays in getting things done that we are starting to see?

It has hardly been discussed but having this many changes in those who run the club could well be the cause for some of the problems it appears are appearing. Lets hope we start to make things run a bit smoother and soon.

West Bromwich Albion FC / Has Richard Garlick failed his first big test?
« on: September 03, 2013, 01:40:04 AM »
When Richard Garlick was hired as a replacement for Dan Ashworth, going from the Clubs Legal Secretary to become our Sporting and Technical director, we were told that his lack of experience in scouting and the footballing aspect of running a club would not be too much of an issue. He was apparently "the only man for the job" after being turned down it seemed by other candidates.

Is it a coincidence however that this is the most bungled summer transfer window we have had since before Ashworth arrived at the club? Under Ashworth, our summer business seemed to be concluded quite quickly. We were never involved in a number of late deals like some of the less well run clubs and our signings would include intelligent free transfers like Gareth Macauley and Billy Jones, lower cost players from abroad who we signed for bargains (such as Youssuf Mulumbu and Peter Odemwingie) as well the odd big fee or loan coup (like Lukaku, Foster, Long etc).

This window however, our transfer business has in the main been sorted in the final fortnight of the window, signing 5 players, many of whom could have been signed at any stage during the transfer widow.

The side was already looking ragged the second half of last season after Peter Odemwingie made his position untenable and with only a soon to be departing Romelu Lukaku scoring the goals, backed up by an increasingly static looking midfield, it was obvious we needed a number of new players. So having lost wingers such as Tchoyi, Thomas and Odemwngie as well as releasing Fortune and losing Lukaku, it should have been fairly obvious to everyone at the club that we needed to sign 2 or 3 strikers, with at least one, maybe two needing to be able to play the role of wide striker and be dynamic, with the ability to go past players and make things happen. On top of that we also needed to replace the loss of speed on the flanks with signings of 1 or 2 specialist wide midfielders (depending on who we signed up front).

Instead of identifying our targets and moving for them quickly from what we claim is a very intelligent scouting system, we seemed to take our time and despite receiving a huge amount of TV money, we only seemed prepared to spend small fees and loan/free transfers. Signing Anelka as the Lukaku replacement at the age of 34 (and without an real playing time in Europe for 2 years) as well as the near 33 year old Diego Lugano (badly out of form for 3 years and showing sins his legs had gone) to back up an already old centre half pairing and a back up left back were all deals I was not too sure I agreed with (Popov maybe harsh).

Matej Vydra was again a gamble however one that in hindsight maybe makes more sense as he can play across the strike force and could score goals and is still quite young.

The last 2 weeks have shown however how we seemed to have had no real plan for this window which is worrying. We eventually realised we had to spend some money on a wide player AFTER the season started, reacting to our poor start against Southampton and brought in Scott Sinclair for a deal that may be worth about 5 million if he signs next season permanently (i'd imagine thats already tied in the deal).

Then, today we have ended up spending 10-12 million on players which we didnt originally set out to do when we could have possibly got of a similar calibre but much cheaper from the continent. Stephane Sessegnon has been available all summer. Why did we leave it until now to make an offer of nearly 6 million? Don't get me wrong, he is the ideal replacement for Odemwingie, but why wait this long and in this chaotic way? The deal to bring in Victor Anichebe is possibly the most unsettling however. With 18 career goals at the age of 25, our agreement to pay a fee rising to 6 million really shows the club panicked and realised they had to take drastic action. Anichebe has much more to his game than just goals with his versatility and power/aggression, however we could have found a very similar player, much earlier in the transfer window for a hell of a lot less money than what we have ended up paying here. Anichebe for 2 or 3 million is a good deal but not for 6 million.

Now we can't point the finger at Garlick with total certainty, we don't know if Peace and Jenkins have extended more control over the club with Ashworth leaving, however it has to be said Ashworths departure has already had a monumental effect on how we have operated this summer compared to the last 5 years.

This summer has been the summer the whole of the football community in the UK realised that we needed to accept sporting and technical directors or some other form of running a football club to progress. Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City signed their players quickly, as did it must be said Cardiff, Sunderland, Swansea and Southampton, all of whom have a directr of some sort in charge. The clubs that have much older fashioned managers in charge of their signings such as Arsenal, Man Utd, West Ham and Newcastle United (lets face it Kinnear isn't a real director of football) have all fell very far behind the rest with awful transfer windows.

We are told Garlick is in charge of 4 areas of the clubs running, however with us talking of scrapping the academy, and with him not actually knowing anything about sports science (professionally anyway) and little experience of scouting,  the choice to place him in charge looks like it might be backfiring.

With us currently sitting in the top 8 and looking good to finish 8th, and with European football hopes all but evaporated, is the Man Utd game at the end of the season the final real aim for us?

Man Utd is now the only team in the division we havent beaten in a league game in the premier league era. Apart from the solitary Carling cup win around 2003/2004, we haven't actually added to our very impressive record against Man Utd.

For me this is out best opportunity of beating them, with the season looking likely to be over before the final game of the season and with them having a very real prospect of being in the FA Cup final.

Would the Man Utd win be our last big landmark to aim for this season?

West Bromwich Albion FC / How do we stop the rot?
« on: January 30, 2013, 10:46:10 PM »
Lots of frustration and disappointment about the place tonight, as well as a feeling that we are throwing away what could have been a great season, but not many asnwers so far.

So I was wondering, what can we do to stop this rot. I'm particularly interested to see what could be done to this team to shake things up and jump start the flat battery of a team, as Clarke is getting a lot of stick at the moment.

I know many will say signing a player or two tomorrow, and I totally agree, but that is a debate for elsewhere. So, what other things can we do?

West Bromwich Albion FC / Cup success, it s long over due
« on: January 09, 2013, 11:42:20 PM »
Time for some numbers. 1968 - our last cup win. Try another one. 1970, our last cup final (lost to Man City).

Over the weekend, I heard that 30 different teams had won a major cup since us. Incredible figure when you consider the football league contains 92 teams. That's nearly a third of the entire football league, although by my maths is is actually "only" 27 - 28 if you include Derby's league title. The final 2 to make 30 would be made up by Reading and Crystal Palace who won the full members cup (stop gap cup for top 2 divisions while we were banned from Europe after Heysel - lesser trophy but still seen as a major by some).

Even worse is the figure for teams that have been to a major cup final since we were last there in 1970. A further 12 teams. That means 39 teams have been to the FA cup or League cup final (or won the league in Derbys case) - only 7 shy of half of the football league! That figure will rise to 41 if Swansea and Bradford make this seasons league cup final, as looks possible after the first legs (and 43 if you count Reading and Charltons full members cup finals).

A browse of the winners since our last win, include Wolves, Villa, Blues, Stoke and Coventry - so every big side in the West side of the Midlands has that over us. To make us sit even more uncomfortable, other sides who have won post 68 include Norwich, Ipswich, Portsmouth, and even worse, Oxford City and Luton Town.

A look at those who have been runners up also shows up Brighton, Tranmere, Oldham, QPR, Watford, Milwall, Cardiff and Wigan.

Worse still, a large number of these teams, including Luton, Crystal Palace, Cardiff, Birmingham, QPR, Stoke, Norwich and Wolves have all been to 2, 3 even 4 or 5 finals since our last one.

We are a club with a rich history in cup competitions, but this record really does now need to wiped clean. It is time for us to do what over half of the football league has managed in the last 40 or so years - it's time for us to contest a cup final.

We are safe from relegation this season and our European chances are looking slimmer and slimmer thanks to the league cup first leg results. So, why not give this a real go this year. We are at home in the replay against a QPR side focusing on the league and the 4th round could see us at home against a poor championship team or a good league 1 side (Sheff Wed or MK Dons) - a great chance to make the 5th round. After that, we just need some luck.

For a full list of the clubs who have won something in the last 40 years and been to finals, see below.

Winners: Tottenham, Stoke, Wolves, Villa, Man City, N Forest, Liverpool, Norwich, Oxford, Arsenal, Luton, Sheffield Wednesday, Man Utd, Leciester C, Chelsea, Blackburn R, Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Leeds Utd, Sunderland, West Ham Utd, Southampton, Ipswich Town, Everton, Coventry City, Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Derby County, (Reading), (Crystal Palace)

Finalists without a win: Cardiff C, Wigan, Bolton, Tranmere Rovers, Oldham, QPR, Newcastle Utd, Fulham, Brighton, Watford, Milwall, Crystal Palace, (Charlton)

Bradford and Swansea currently in waiting

The first eleven has been impossible to pick these last 5 or 6 games with Clarke giving the side a major face lift every match recently. With injuries and the concentration of games over the holiday period, maybe it was something we could not avoid but it does seem to have hampered us today with the players looking like they could not string a pass together in the first half.

Is it now time for Clarke to try to pick a settled side over the next few weeks? No doubt QPR will see more changes but after that I would like to see us settle on more of a settled line up and see if that helps our play.

West Bromwich Albion FC / Another step forward for our academy?
« on: December 28, 2012, 06:08:46 PM »

West Bromwich Albion FC / Do we aim for FA cup glory this year?
« on: December 26, 2012, 09:02:01 PM »
With us no on 33 points at the half way stage and all but safe from relegation, attention turns to new targets. We are still in terms of points, challenging for the champions league, but even the most optimistic Baggie knows that will be out of the question come May. 7th place and maybe Europe isnt out of the question but even that may turn out too difficult with so many teams like Arsenal, Spurs, Everton and Liverpool pushing us so, does the FA Cup become more important now?

In years gone by we have fielded an under strength team in the FA Cup, but we have a genuine chance with the team one of the best ten in the league, of actually getting some where this year.

So should we push for the FA Cup, or prioritise a top 6-8 finish?

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