Ahead of the Boxing Day clash at the Hawthorns, I got some views from Mark Thomas over at the Albion Till We Die website, from the despondency at the manager to the excellent Joleon Lescott and more. Thanks to Mark for his excellent replies.
How have you felt Albion’s season has gone so far?
Much like last season, it’s rapidly becoming one to forget. It didn’t bode well in the summer with the appointment of Alan Irvine, and with the club’s transfer dealings not the best yet again, the warning signs were clear for all to see. We didn’t get off to a great start but somehow managed to string three wins together back in September. We’ve only managed two wins since then, one thanks to an own goal and the other against a team of ten men. It’s not that we’ve been unlucky or anything like that, we have on the whole been pretty awful, far too much in the way of negative backwards and sidewards football. It’s certainly not been an enjoyable five months. Ironically our defeat at QPR last Saturday saw us play our best football of the season in the first 20 minutes but as soon as Rangers scored their first we slipped back to what we have become accustomed to.
Have the fans warmed to the appointment of Alan Irvine?
No, not in the slightest. He was probably the most unpopular managerial appointment in the history of the club and he’s currently neck and neck with Bobby Gould as our most hated manager ever. Whilst he’s currently a target of ridicule, a good number of fans do feel sympathy for him. He should never have been put into the position he was, club owner Jeremy Peace the man at fault there. Also, having backroom staff forced onto him as well as having little or no say in the club’s transfer dealings has made a difficult job for Irvine nigh on impossible.
Has Berahino been as good as reported in the early part of the season? What has gone wrong for him?
He did look lively during the first few games of the season but as the team lost form and confidence so did he. It would be interesting to see him playing in an attacking and confident team, I’m sure he would quickly regain his ‘zest’. Obviously his alleged arrest for drink driving must be affecting him, sadly his off the field antics look like ruining what could be a great career.
Views on Georgios Samaras?
I’ll let you know when we’ve seen a bit of him. He’s made just seven very short substitute appearances so far and has done nothing to justify the decision to sign him.
What’s your general play been like this season?
In one word poor. We were warned by Sheffield Wednesday and Preston fans when Irvine was appointed that we would have to get used to dour, negative, defensive football and on the whole that’s what we’ve seen. As mentioned previously, our best football this season came in a 20 minute spell at Loftus Road on Saturday but we still ended up losing that game.
Your best and most underwhelming players?
It’s pretty easy to pick our player of the season so far and I’d imagine all other Baggies’ fans would agree – former City man Joleon Lescott. He’s been fantastic for us this season and it’s easy to see why he’s played at the top level for so long. His reading of the game is second to none. I guess his age goes against him now but for me he’s easily good enough to still be in and around the England squad.
As for underwhelming where do I start… So many players have underperformed this season but the biggest let down has to be £10million striker Brown Ideye. He tries but so far has looked nothing like a Premier League footballer. All Albion fans are hoping one goal will kick-start his Baggies’ career, it’s a long time in coming though.
Your views on City? Do many Albion fans resent the role of money in obtaining success?
I’ve always quite liked City as a club and would rather see them be successful than the likes of Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Arsenal. I think it’s a shame though that the only way City, or any other club for that matter, could seriously compete for trophies is through the injection of ridiculous amounts of money.
I don’t think it’s just Albion fans that resent the amount of money in the game to be honest, the vast majority of football fans in general can see the damage the amount of money in football is doing to the game. Long gone are the local family clubs, all too often replaced by money grabbing corporate entities.
When only two or three clubs ever have a realistic chance of winning the league, and just four or five clubs have a chance of finishing in the top four, something surely isn’t right? Us English fans used to ridicule the Scottish League for only having two clubs, is it much different down here now?
I think the time for change has long gone though. The clubs with money are far too powerful now and have little concern for the rest of the clubs around the country. The only way us other teams will ever get near Premier League success is when the ‘big’ four or five decide they can make more money from joining a European Super League which will surely happen at some point in the future. Many fans of smaller clubs look forward to the day.
What’s the main weakness City can exploit on Boxing Day?
We desperately lack pace and have done for a long long time. Teams that are direct and attack at pace always cause us problems, our slow plodding players simply cannot cope with players running at them. We also seem to have developed a knack of conceding from set-pieces, something QPR exploited to good effect last weekend.
If you could have one City player, who would it be?
There’s so many good players at City but if I had to pick just one it would have to be Sergio Aguero, a fantastic talent.
Low and high points of season?
Although it actually happened in pre-season, the low point has to be the appointment of Alan Irvine as manager. An absolutely shocking decision.
There’s not been many high points but the 1-0 win against arch-rivals Aston Villa was pretty enjoyable.
Who do you think will be Champions?
I hate to say I think it will be Chelsea. They’ve got such a strong squad and one of the best managers in the world, a heck of a combination. I think City will push them pretty much all the way but I just feel Chelsea will grind out result after result, whereas perhaps City are more prone to upsets.
Who do you think will be relegated? (confident Albion will stay up?)
At this moment in time I’m not in the slightest bit confident we can stay up. There’s such a negative vibe around the club at the minute that all emanates from our manager. The majority of ‘winnable’ games have come and gone without us picking up three points and with a nightmare of a run-in to come things are not looking good. Plenty of Baggies’ fans are hoping that Irvinewill be given the boot sooner rather than later and a new man will lift the place and gain the results that we so badly need. I’m not holding my breath though.
As for the other teams to go down I think Leicester will go and possibly Burnley. I’ve a feeling QPR and Hull might just escape.
Finally, how do you see game going on Boxing Day?
It’s going to be extremely tough for us no question and if we could get a point from the game that would be seen as a great result. Even with City missing a number of strikers you have to imagine that they would still have too much firepower for the Albion defence. I’ll say 2-1 to City.