West Brom are like a middle-aged couple’s middle son, the one who gets into no trouble, yet nor does he excel at anything. He’s neither up nor down, simply doing what’s required to get by whilst never causing a fuss.
Tony Pulis has created a functional team who can defend, lack any sort of flair. It’s a team who won’t get relegated, but it’s also a team who won’t find much in the way of progress over the next few seasons, either.
But things could be changing at West Brom. A Chinese consortium has taken over the club, and – as any Football Manager fan will know – ‘board takeover’ are some of the sweetest words in the English Language. Second only to ‘last-minute winner’.
These may not be exciting times just yet: the noises coming from the owners seem to show they favour evolution rather than revolution, but steady progress is surely the best way forward for a club now-established as a mid-table Premier League side.
Last year was a monument to this ‘established mid-table’ approach. West Brom played four centre backs who gave the team a solid base, and then applied the solid base of Darren Fletcher and James Morrison in front of them, and then applied ‘industry’ on the wings.
A 14th place finish in the league as well as bowing out in the 3rd round of both cup competitions probably tell you exactly what you need to know about the Baggies’ season.
That solid base built by Pulis should really be something to build upon, something to use as a platform for progress. Instead, you get the feeling that another season just like last will make West Brom’s hierarchy very happy indeed.
So far it’s been quiet at the Hawthorns. Matt Phillips has arrived from QPR, but the biggest deal would involve Saido Berahino if the new owners decide to unchain him from the radiator in Jeremy Peace’s basement.
If that happens, though, they’ll need a new striker after the collapse of the Diafra Sakho deal. Otherwise Tony Pulis will be stuck with an unhappy and unproductive striker for another season.
Salomon Rondon is West Brom’s main man, and if they’re concentrating on their solid back line next season – as we all totally expect they will – then Rondon will have the unenviable task of getting the goals in a team who don’t score many.
James McClean is the kind of player Tony Pulis likes because of his work rate. But McClean is also supposed to be a tricky winger.
If West Brom are to progress from their status as a solid defence with an attack just about functional enough to put the points on the board to avoid relegation, then McClean will have to have a big season and step up his attacking intent rather than his defensive work-rate.