Main Menu
What's New
00/01: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 31/3/01
West Bromwich Albion
By Matt Rowson

Really, very much the last thing you need. At all.

You've had a big stressy week at work. Hassle, hassle, hassle. Saturday, and you're up in time to catch an early (i.e. before midday) train into London. By 1pm, you're in Clapham trying to find the pub you arranged. Instead of the pub, you find three lads kicking nine bells out of another lad in the middle of the street in front of you. Whilst you're frantically weighing your moral duty up against the odds of getting your head kicked in, two young women do the responsible thing and jump in to split up the brawl. Your masculinity is seriously challenged (female readers will have to empathise a bit here).

Too many pints of Guinness and an England game later, you're on your way back across London and out into the middle of Essex for a house-warming party and more alcohol before catching the last train back into London.

You know that you will have to get around to Kings Cross and catch a train out to Bedford, getting home in the early hours. You also know that you have to be up early on Sunday morning to go into work, of all places. You're exhausted. Already. Like the adrenaline trough after a Watford game on a Saturday evening. But without the Watford game. And more alcohol. Then it happens. The thing. The very last thing you need. At all.

"Oh yeah", says someone. "The clocks go forward tonight".


Wouldn't it be fantastic if, rather than having to lose a precious hour's sleep on a Sunday morning, you could accommodate the advent of British Summer Time by losing an hour of your choice? For practical purposes the event would have to be confined to one specific week, so that people could still arrange stuff the week after without too much uncertainty. (It could also be argued that the one week of chaos would have minimal effect on certain people's timekeeping anyway, but I digress...).

Think of the possibilities! You could choose to take your hour at 4pm on a Friday and just walk out! Or at 2pm on a Wednesday to miss the extraordinarily anal meeting at work! Or to skip an hour of the particularly dull Sunday evening when there's nothing on the telly.

Best of all, given the two games coming up, you could seize any opportunity that presents itself to guarantee three points against either of two of our play-off rivals by yelling time at any point from half-time onwards at which the Golden Boys find themselves in the lead. Because bugger style, just for the moment three points from each of our next two games are what are required, whatever it takes to procure them.

Such will need to have been West Brom's attitude after their unconvincing win over Tranmere on Sunday (which I listened to at work, incidentally, still nursing that hangover). Relegation-threatened Rovers may be riding the inevitable wave that follows any managerial departure but they're still unmitigated garbage away from home. Nevertheless, they could easily have come away with something from the Hawthorns.

This would have fallen very heavily on Baggies' shoulders in the light of recent defeats at home to Sheffield Wednesday and, in particular, at Molineux, where their performance was apathetic enough for Steve Claridge to describe the game as a "turkey shoot" on Radio 5. With an unfortunate lack of tact and timing, on reflection.

In goal for our hosts will be Russell Hoult, signed from Portsmouth in January to relegate the erratic Brian "The Beast" Jensen to the bench.

There are plenty of options for the three centre-back positions. Guaranteed a place - either on the left of the trio or at left wing-back - will be Neil Clement, who has been outstanding since his £150,000 steal from Chelsea in the summer. Phil Gilchrist was a deadline-day signing from Leicester with a view to stabilising Albion's nervous backline and to help remedy their inability to defend high balls. Tony Butler is another regular, but he is seriously lacking in pace and had an atrocious game in our 3-3 draw with the Baggies before Christmas. Larus Sigurdsson is another option, although he has taken time to recover from a ligament problem suffered last season and was sent off on international duty for Iceland at the weekend. Matt Carbon missed the Tranmere game with a knock... like veteran Daryl Burgess, he is approaching the end of his contract. The emergence of twins Adam and particularly the pacy James Chambers casts a question over both the older players' future.

In the wing-back positions, Des Lyttle's honeymoon period appears to be over (albeit somewhat later than expected), with scepticism growing over his continued inclusion. Slovak Igor Balis, an attacking player, is the most obvious alternative, although James Chambers could also step in here.

On the left, Jason Van Blerk has been attracting stick for much longer than Lyttle. A crude, limited chopper, the former Millwall man is under threat from Warren Cummings, a loan signing from Chelsea.

In midfield, Albion have been badly hit by injury. Captain Derek McInnes is out for the season with cruciate ligament damage, and his deputy as captain Ruel Fox limped off with what appeared to be a bad hamstring problem on Sunday. Michael Appleton, a recent recruit from Preston, also missed Tranmere with a dead leg, leaving the Portuguese Jordão to fill in unconvincingly in the ballwinning role in midfield. Richard Sneekes, who has frequently impressed against the Golden Boys, is at least guaranteed a start, whilst the gradual return of highly rated youngster Adam Oliver from a medial ligament problem will be good news for Gary Megson. James Quinn is another option, despite being listed - the right-sided Ulsterman is not thought to fit into the 3-5-2 formation.

Up front, Albion have three very potent weapons to select from. The "aggressive" (to be polite) duo of Lee Hughes and Jason Roberts both have very healthy tallies this season, Roberts carrying on where his Uncle Cyrille left off so emphatically twenty-odd years ago. An alternative is the less abrasive but no less potent experience of Bob Taylor, long-since a local hero and another who tends to do well against us.

It's fifteen years since the Albion were in the top flight... it goes somewhat against the grain to be rooting for their opponents in Black Country derbies, but such is the nature of our Russian Roulette situation. The Hawthorns will be sold out on Saturday (all three sides of it) to see a match crucial to both sides. Albion, in particular, will be conscious that this is their fortieth league game this season, they are in no position to drop points.

We've had over two weeks to prepare for this one. Nordin will be back, maybe Gifton, Smartie and Nicky Wright too. The season reignites here.

I hope you've got your spare hours ready....