After a near perfect start to the campaign, Pulis’s former side, Stoke City, are the visitors to the Hawthorns this weekend for the early televised game on Sunday with the Welshman looking to retain his record of never having been a losing manager in a fixture between the clubs.
Albion have won four and drawn one of the five meetings between the clubs since Pulis joined in January 2015, a run that has started to repair their dreadful recent record against the Potters. The Baggies are still well behind in the overall record between the clubs with Sunday’s visitors having recorded 60 wins to Albion’s 46 since they first met on the opening day of the first ever Football League season in 1888. That day, Albion came out on top at the Victoria Ground, but Stoke’s record in West Bromwich that stands out with only Liverpool, Aston Villa and Arsenal having won more games on Albion soil.
However, Stoke’s last win at the Hawthorns was in May 2014 when Charlie Adam’s late goal won the game and, since then, Albion have won all three fixtures at the Hawthorns always by the odd goal. In fact, Albion have not won a league game against Stoke by more than one goal since December 1988 when Brian Talbot’s men won 6-0 thanks to a hat trick of braces from Gary Robson, Don Goodman and John Paskin.
On Tuesday evening, Tom Dallison had the dubious honour of being the first player to score against West Bromwich Albion this season when he netted a late consolation goal in the first ever fixture between the Baggies and Accrington Stanley. It turned out to be a relatively comfortable evening for Pulis’s team as Salomón Rondon and Matt Phillips opened their accounts for the season, and Jay Rodriguez scored his first competitive goal for the club. Albion had plenty of chances to score more, but they are safely through to the next round to face Manchester City at the Hawthorns, as they did seven years ago in a tie that produced the Baggies’ most recent victory against the blue half of Manchester.
In their opening Premier League game, Stoke City went down 1-0 in a fairly drab game at Everton and followed that up with what seemed to be a rather fortunate 1-0 home win over Arsenal. In midweek, they recorded a comfortable 4-0 win over League One strugglers, Rochdale. I’ve not been overly impressed in Mark Hughes’s side so far, but they’ve made some decent signings in Bruno Martins Indi from Porto, Jesé Rodríguez on loan from PSG and Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea. Darren Fletcher, of course, opted to move to the Bet365 Stadium thanks to the offer of a two-year contract and he, along with Saido Berahino, will be returning to the Hawthorns on Sunday.
The Potters are operating in a similar transfer market to the Baggies and a number of players, most lately Spurs defender Kevin Wimmer and Wolfsburg midfielder Joshua Guilavogui, have been linked with both clubs. City’s players are often linked with Albion due to the Pulis connection, with Shawcross once again linked this summer but, so far, no player has move directly from Stoke to Albion since Pulis has been in charge with Marc Wilson coming closest having moved to Bournemouth in between.
At the time of writing, there have been no further additions to the Baggies squad since the signing of Gareth Barry, although there has been plenty of speculation on a number of potential deals plus reports on Thursday that young Scottish international, Oliver Burke, is travelling to the midlands for a medical ahead of a potential transfer from RB Leipzig. Despite Albion’s promising start, Pulis is desperate to add to the squad and there is no doubt that the next week will be key to the Baggies’ season.
A home fixture against Stoke represents a great opportunity for Albion to make it three league wins to start the season for the first time since 1997 – that season, win number three was over local rivals Wolves and, in the absence of any other West Midlands clubs in the top flight, the Potters are as close to a local rival that Albion will meet in the league this season. Saido Berahino did make his return to the Hawthorns in February, barely touching the ball in his 32 minute substitute appearance. While he hadn’t score for the Baggies in a while, few expected him to still be without a goal for his new club at the start of this season, and the worry for Baggies fans is that fate will dictate that he breaks his duck at the Hawthorns – it is now 29 appearances since his last goal against Palace in February 2016.
Part of me thinks that Albion’s good start, and Pulis’s Stoke-Albion unbeaten record, must come to an end, but I don’t think it will be this weekend. Albion are full of confidence and Stoke aren’t firing on all cylinders just yet, and I can see another win for the Baggies by the odd goal.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
4 Feb 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Morrison)
Stoke City 0
Albion’s Record against Stoke City
|Premier League Record|