The reprehensible thug who threw a coin at Chris Brunt on Saturday not only put all Albion fans in a bad light, but his actions also diverted attention away from what most of the 4,000 Baggies fans were most concerned about, the performance of the team and the future of Tony Pulis.
The perpetrator will, I hope, be rightly convicted and banned from all future football matches, and while that was an isolated act of thuggery, there were plenty of Albion fans who were expressing their disapproval of the performance in a more acceptable manner. And while much of the media attention centred around that incident, one statement from the Albion manager created a few headlines.
Tony Pulis said that he would sit down with chairman, Jeremy Peace, over the summer to discuss his future, a topic that many of us have been discussing for weeks. Has he finally noticed the fans’ dissatisfaction, does he think he is losing his touch, or has JP indicated that he is on borrowed time? Some Albion fans were waiting for the announcement of Pulis’s departure on Saturday evening, but even if JP had been considering that move, I’m not sure the timing would’ve been right given the actions of that coin-throwing idiot.
Performances since the draw at Stamford Bridge have been almost universally dreadful. There were occasional moments against Swansea, I guess, and the commitment against Everton cannot be questions, but most of the last nine games have been uninspiring and awful to watch. Despite that, Albion managed to squeeze through two rounds of the FA Cup and win at Goodison Park for only the second time in 35 years, and this remains Albion’s second most successful season in the Premier League based on points after 26 games.
A fifth round tie against lower league opposition was the perfect chance for Pulis and Albion to get the fans back on side – the continuation of the cup run would’ve kept the season alive. But despite a relatively attacking line up, for Pulis at least, Albion were dreadful in the first half and fortunate to go in level at half time. A good move and neat finish from Fletcher gave them the boost they needed before something happened that we don’t expect from a Pulis side – conceding from set pieces twice. Pulis may point to injuries along the back four, but he is renowned for preparing his side meticulously for such situations, but on this occasion either he, or his players, failed spectacularly.
After a record low home attendance in the Premier League of just over 22,000 in the last home game against Swansea, the club will be fearing an even lower turnout for Saturday’s game. Palace are hardly a draw for the fans and, which the match televised, there is even less incentive to turn up at the Hawthorns.
Nonetheless, it’s a massive game against a side who’s league form is worse that Albion’s, but who managed a cup upset of their own on Sunday with a win at White Hart Lane to give them a real confidence boost. Defeat for Pulis could leave him on the brink again, but will JP act?
Personally, I think he will hold fire until the end of the season unless he has a replacement lined up already. With 12 games to go, it’s getting a little close to the end of the season for a new man to have much impact and Albion are still not in imminent danger of relegation.
Having said that, after the Palace game, Albion face three of the top five (although the Arsenal game will be pushed back should they beat Hull in their FA Cup replay) before two massive games against Norwich and Sunderland. If a couple of teams pick up some results during the next few weeks, the back end of March could be huge.
With Pulis’s record, it’s a massive gamble to make a change at this stage of the season – I’m sure that Peace will back him to keep Albion in the league, but he will find it hard to ignore the fans if the season ticket renewals and late season attendances are disappointing.
Let’s face it, he should start quietly identifying a successor now, if he hasn’t already.