The Curious Case of West Bromwich Albion


West Bromwich Albion have always been cursed by the “Boing-Boing Baggies” tag they earned for their sporadic appearances in the first and second tiers of English football. The constant cycle of promotion and relegation seemed endless, but after four successful years of stability, the curse appeared to be broken.

When Steve Clarke was removed from his position as manager back in December 2013, the gauntlet was laid down; West Brom were not prepared to settle for just surviving every year. No, the Baggies were ready to boing-boing back in to the top ten, and they were going to do it with some continental style, with the appointment of former Real Betis manager, Pepe Mel. What could possibly go wrong?

Pepe Mel left the Baggies with just 3 wins in 17 games

Well, as it turned out, a lot could. And a lot did. It took seven attempts before Mel could get his first win as West Brom manager, and with the club sinking closer and closer toward the relegation zone, the partnership was looking less like Pochettino/Southampton, and more like Di Canio/Sunderland.

With Pepe Mel sacked four months in to the job, it was now time for West Brom to set out their stall and show everyone their ambition. Impressive names were linked – Tim Sherwood, David Moyes, Neil Lennon, Ronald Koeman – all names to give fans hope. And yet, when the announcement finally came, it could not have been any more underwhelming. West Brom had chosen Alan Irvine.

Alan Irvine. The former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday manager. Alan Irvine. The man who had spent the last three years in charge of Everton’s youth team.  Alan Irvine. The man half the footballing world had forgotten.

The fans were right to not be inspired. After all the exciting, young, up-and-coming managerial talent that had been linked, all the trusty old hands that could have emulated the work of Roy Hodgson, West Brom had turned to a man that had left both his previous jobs on the back of a string of torrid results. To the neutral, it was a death knell. The board had reached a crossroads, and decided to turn back. And yet, even with his haggard dogma, no-one can be sure whether West Brom will sink or swim.

More from Premier League

In quite the juxtaposition, just six days after Irvine’s arrival came Joleon Lescott’s, the former Everton and Manchester City center back who had just left the champions on a free transfer. Add to that the acquisition of Craig Gardner from Sunderland, and the West Bromwich transfer window is off to a promising start. Links with Troy Deeney, Garath McLeary and even the promotion of youth academy starlet George Thorne suggest that a crisp, attacking style of football is coming to the Hawthornes, and with players like Sessengnon and Berahino still on the books, West Brom’s starting eleven is starting to look lethal on the counter.

Mix these ingredients together and you’re left with a bizarre, nameless concoction that frankly could go either way. Would it surprise anyone to see West Brom finish 10th again? Probably not. But would it surprise anyone to see West Brom struggling to keep their heads above water? Probably not.

The coming season promises some enthralling narratives for clubs like Tottenham, Southampton, Leicester and others, but there is none more curious than that of West Bromwich Albion.