The day before my birthday, June 18th 2014. I remember waking up a bit late and thinking “YES”. Premier league fixtures have been released. “Let’s see what away games I can do and let’s see when we play the Villa”
I spotted what I needed to and then I got the shock of my life. Our last five games are
Why is this relevant you ask? All are teams that will be fighting for champions league/titles (except maybe Newcastle). Our last, what I call ‘winnable game’, is Crystal Palace away on the 18th of April. That cuts our premiership season short by a month or 5 games. Not saying we can’t get points or wins at these places but there aren’t much harder teams to try and take them from. If we are not safe by the middle of April (40 Pts minimum, maybe more), we are highly likely to be heading into the sky bet league. The problems don’t end there.
Christmas is also another troublesome time for Albion. With such a big fixture list, our seemingly small squad (that actually play) coupled with the African cup of nations (luckily we only lose Mulumbu this year as Nigeria didn’t qualify). Is also a time that we fail to get many points on the board and often gives us a bit of a limp going into new year as we attempt to recuperate from the Christmas battles. And though it’s not the whole ‘war’, if you don’t win your battles you often lose the war.
What I’m getting at is as fans we knew and know that the first 15 games were going to be crucial to our premier league survival. We are on number 13 with 13 points. Doesn’t take a maths genius to understand that is 1 point per game. Also doesn’t take a genius to understand that this is relegation form without the fears that Albion fans know is coming. Christmas and those last 5 fixtures are huge tasks.
Now onto Alan Irvine. The very nice, bushy browed Glaswegian. He’s polite, thankful and knowledgeable. But he is NOT a Premiership manager. Take aside the fact that his football is incredibly boring, anti attacking and backwards. He seems to have no urgency. Proven by his team, bench and substitution choices. Albion fans are no stranger to this. Aside from 1 or 2 games, we have dealt with this week in, week out for going on 2 years now. It was about this time 2 years ago that Steve Clarke’s fantastic managerial start decided to get up and go. We finished 8th that season, This is where the difference is however. We did poor for the rest of that season but got security early. We haven’t done this here. And we are vastly running out of time. We need something to gel. Things are going wrong and looking bad, fans are getting very tired. I can see people are about to give up. This anger and uproar from today’s game feels like one last battle cry from the fans to do something, to save us from the hurt that will come with relegation. We have “soldiers” drink driving, injured, lazy, inept and for some reason we paid one “soldier” £10 million to sit on the bench… Sometimes.
Im not even going to head into the Downing/Kiely debate, but let’s just say we’ve been through 3 managers now, all of which suffer the boring play, horrible subs and terrible timing of said subs. Sometimes there’s too much there to call coincidence. (Though I do believe Kiely is a great keeper coach).
I do know the recruitment wasn’t down to Irvine solely. But there ARE great players In this squad. I feel that there is enough quality in the squad to pull us through this war. However, should we not replace the inexperienced manager with someone who actually knows premiership football properly, someone who can get the potential out of the players and should we not get the points required by April. I would start making plans for midweek games at Sheffield Wednesday. (What a coincidence).