When we last played West Brom at The Hawthorns we were about to notch up our seventh successive Premier League defeat. It was a depressing, dispiriting defeat that left us with a grand total of 3 points from first 10 games marooned at the bottom. We were hopeless, helpless and managerless to boot. That was then but this is now, ten more matches since early have yielded a gargantuan14 points, some semblance of hope and a new manager. Saturday’s FA Cup tie offers the chance to compare and contrast.
When I was writing a preview for the early November game I elicited the views of some Baggies fans I knew and their greatest fear was that we would appoint their nemesis, Tony “Baggies Beater” Pulis whose record with Stoke at The Hawthorns was nigh on perfect five wins and one draw from six matches with 11 goals for and only two against. At the time I suggested that Steve Parish reel Pulis in if it was only for this game. It took a few more weeks but in the end our chairman followed my advice and now things are looking a tad brighter. With this newly found Pulis confidence this would seem to be an away banker but then again this is Palace and we are quite Shakespearean in our approach as appearance and reality are often distant cousins.
It does not take Nostradamus to foresee wholesale changes to the team. There are key players that need a rest after the customary Christmas/ New Year fixture binge with four games squeezed into a dozen days. So the likes of Jedinak and Chamakh will be given time off for good behaviour and some of the squad players, such as Stuart O’Keefe and will be given a chance to shine. Providing there is not too much disruption to the team pattern there will be an opportunity to blood some of these lesser lights who could prove invaluable in the last half of the season.
As Paul Lambert pointed out recently with disarming honesty most Premier League teams ‘could do without the FA Cup’. The venerable tradition that stretches back into the 19th century has been swept away as the practical aim of staying in the top division far outweighs the chance of FA Cup glory in reaching Wembley. Who wants more fixtures clogging up an already busy schedule with survival at the top table the highest of priorities? This is a sad indictment of the modern approach to the game where money is the be all and end all. Stuff the romance, show us the money is the prevailing attitude. The Football Association can hardly complain as the Premier League is within their remit and they sold sponsorship of FA Cup whilst simultaneously selling their soul. They are now at the beck and call of an American brewing company.
So with a scratch side in the offing and a competition that nobody really wants to progress in there are all the ingredients for a completely underwhelming experience. So I have chosen this to be my 12 year-old son’s first Eagles away match outside London. Additionally the weather conditions are likely to accentuate the fact that we are going to the highest ground in English football where the wind and the rain will be at their keenest. All in all, a ridiculous decision that could be used in evidence against me but then again come May as we prepare ourselves for our second Wembley visit in a year we could be saying “do you remember that horrible day at The Hawthorns?”
Hope springs eternal.
Written by: Richard Foster
Twitter Handle: @rcfoster
West Brom v Crystal Palace Preview:
Crystal Palace have won just one and lost seven of their last nine FA Cup matches when drawn against opposition from the same division.
West Brom have advanced to the Fourth Round in five of the last seven years. However, both eliminations have come in the last three years.
Palace have won two and lost just one of their last six meetings with WBA in all competitions. That defeat came earlier this season in the league.
Shane Long, who could return from injury to play, has scored five goals in his last seven FA Cup appearances.