The chances of Albion staying in the Premier League may remain as remote as they’ve ever been, but there is a feeling of relief amongst Baggies fans as Alan Pardew’s long-overdue departure from the club was confirmed on Easter Monday. Furthermore, I’m actually looking forward to Saturday’s game with Swansea City to see what Big Dave will do different.
The legacy of Alan Pardew is far worse than most could have anticipated. I said at the time he was appointed that I didn’t particularly like the man, and his record has done nothing to assuage that view. Furthermore, if the comment piece by Matt Wilson of the Express and Star is anywhere close to the truth, he has been shown to be a thoroughly unpleasant individual despite presenting a very palatable front to the media. There were plenty of warnings from fans of his previous clubs, but they did all enjoy a period of success on the field under Pardew, something that has been conspicuous by its absence during his Hawthorns tenure.
The appointment of Pardew was one of many mistakes that have been made by the Albion hierarchy in the past few years, and is perhaps a topic for discussion at the end of the season. As, it would seem, is the name of Albion’s next permanent manager, although there is already plenty of speculation. Their experience of Pardew may lead the board to consider more left-field appointments, but there are plenty of the usual names linked with the job. A few, such as Michael Appleton, Derek McInnes and Graham Potter are perhaps only linked due to their previous association with the club – would these be considered on merit alone and, if not, does the fact that they know the club offer an advantage over potentially more qualified applicants?
One name, Nigel Pearson, makes me very nervous – despite his former association with the club, he is another man that I don’t really like, and the way his tenure ended at Leicester City reminds me too much of the trouble that Pardew found himself in following Taxigate. Furthermore, would we really want to be the club that brings him back to England from his exile in the Belgian second tier?
West Bromwich-born Brentford boss, Dean Smith, is perhaps the most intriguing name. Having taken Walsall from the lower reaches of League 1 to play-off challengers, he moved to Griffin Park in December 2015 and has kept the Bees in a solid mid-table position playing very attractive football. He seems to be getting some traction amongst the pundits, and would perhaps be a decision best described as “brave”.
And Mick McCarthy? Surely that’s a joke?
Ahead of all that, of course, we have the final six games of the season under the stewardship of Albion legend, Darren Moore. The softly-spoken devoutly Christian powerhouse defender was a massive fans’ favourite during his time as a player under Gary Megson, and scored the first goal in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace that secured Albion’s first promotion to the Premier League 16 years ago. Is it an omen that this season’s final game is also against the Eagles? I doubt it – the Baggies pretty much need to win all their remaining games to be in with a shout, games which include a trip to Old Trafford and home games with Liverpool and Spurs.
But with Big Dave in charge, there will at least be a more positive atmosphere in the stands even though survival has been discounted as a realistic possibility. Having worked with the U23s, Mooro may look to give some of the younger players a chance to shine, rather than the chance to fail that Pardew seemed to prefer. Burke and Field could both start against Swansea if fit, so it could be a very different look to the side. There will hopefully be a distinct change in atmosphere in the dressing room, and those players who seemed to have given up may have a little more motivation to perform.
The other decision that he needs to make is how much to use the players that definitely won’t be at the Hawthorns next season. Daniel Sturridge, who could be fit for the trip to Old Trafford, and Grzegorz Kyrchowiak are the obvious players to fall into this category, although you could also probably include the likes of Jonny Evans and Kieran Gibbs who will almost certainly leave in the event of relegation. Both Sturridge and Krychowiak should have the motivation to play – Sturridge has played less than 90 minutes for the Baggies so far, and this move was intended to show that he can get a run of games and get goals, while Krychowiak needs to secure his place in the Poland squad for the World Cup. Unless Moore decides to switch the captaincy, I’d still expect Evans to play but Gibbs needs to up his performances to warrant his place in the side. Nacer Chadli has been back in training this week, and he is another who will probably look to move away in the summer, and he needs to get in the side to prove his fitness.
It is a step into the unknown, however, for all of us. Big Dave has precious little coaching experience and he’s pretty much the last man standing in the coaching staff with only him and goalkeeping coach, Neil Cutler, left on the first team staff. We have no real idea of what his football philosophy is – I don’t know, but I suspect he had little input into the tactics under Pardew and his promotion was probably something to appease the fans from his point of view, rather than to get another opinion. He is likely to lean on senior players such as Chris Brunt to a degree, and it’s not a bad idea to get the players on side straight away for this short spell of games. His stature at the club will hopefully garner respect in the dressing room and he is, by all reports, a thoroughly decent guy who is popular amongst the playing staff.
It’s a great opportunity for him and, for the most part, a bit of a free hit with no one expecting too much. If he can pick up any points in the next six games, he’ll have done better than his predecessor!
As for the visitors, Huw Jenkins can never be accused of opting for one of the usual suspects when appointing managers, and the Swans latest incumbent was another one from the left field. They haven’t always worked, but Carlos Carvalhal has certainly had a positive impact at the Liberty Stadium although Swansea are by no means out of the woods yet. They are just three points clear of 18th-placed Southampton and have Man City and Chelsea to play this month. If they don’t pull away, their last two games against Southampton and Stoke City could be very interesting.
This will be the 38th league meeting between the sides and, if we could play Swansea every week, that would suggest that Albion would already have 46 points having won 13 and drawn 7 of the previous 37 matches. At home, Albion’s record is impressive having lost just four times to the Swans, although three of those have come in the last six matches at the Hawthorns. Swansea’s last victory on Albion soil was back in 2013 when Michael Laudrup’s team bettered Steve Clarke’s Baggies thanks to goals from Ben Davies and Pablo Hernandez.
Last season’s equivalent fixture saw Salomón Rondón score a hat trick of headers as the Swans were beaten 3-1 in December, although the Venezuelan only managed one more goal before the end of the campaign.
Until 1969, the Swans were known as Swansea Town and the Baggies never lost to the club at home under that name. Their first victory at the Hawthorns came in January 1992 when substitute Steve Thornber scored a hat trick in the last 11 minutes to turn a 2-0 Baggies lead (both scored by Graham Roberts) into a 3-2 Swans victory. Albion had their revenge the following season, of course, by defeating the Welsh club in the play-off semi-final.
In the first three meetings between the sides at the Hawthorns, Albion scored a total of sixteen goals with the third of those games being their record win over Swansea. Tommy Glidden scored four as Albion ran out 6-2 winners on 26th October 1929 which, for the history buffs amongst you, the weekend in the middle of the Wall Street Crash.
With Big Dave in charge, I can’t help but be optimistic – Albion to win!!
All competitions; most recent game on the right
9 Dec 2017 – Premier League
Swansea City 1 (Bony)
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
14 Dec 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Rondón (3))
Swansea City 1 (Routledge)
14 Dec 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 3 (Rondón (3))
Swansea City 1 (Routledge)
Albion’s Record against Swansea City
|Premier League Record|