One of the things that has surprised me this season is the lack of praise being thrown towards Roberto Di Matteo and his very impressive West Bromwich Albion side. Of the three promoted sides, Blackpool have the best manager for soundbites, Newcastle have some off the field issues and strange living arrangments for some of the squad. West Bromwich have simply decided to play some impressive football in the first 3 months of the season.
It’s odd that a side that currently sit 6th in the table, with some fantastic results so far are not garnering more positive press. Yes, they started badly with a thrashing at Chelsea, but it’s hardly an exclusive club to be in, though a loss at lacklustre Liverpool perhaps was more of a disappointment. Other than that though, this is a side that outplayed Arsenal for an hour at the Emirates and won 3-2, held Tottenham at home and Manchester United away.
It seems that the Baggies can’t get the credit that they clearly deserve at this part of the season. West Brom have evolved from a middling Championship side in the 1990’s, to a club consistently pushing for promotion to the Premiership in the last 10 years. Through Megson, Robson and Mowbray this was a side that proved too good for the Championship but failed to utilise their top league credentials. Now though, Di Matteo has set his stall out with his side to try and build on Premiership football.
It seems to me rather odd that a side with the credentials and history of West Brom has struggled to make more of a Premiership impact over the last ten years. Sides that have spent less, with smaller crowds have stayed up whilst the Baggies continued to yo-yo between the top two divisions. Yet, they’ve not fallen in to the trap of getting stuck in the Championship and always been up around the movers and shakers of the promotion race consistently.
This season has seen a breakthrough for them as a Premiership side. No longer afraid to play away from home, with pace and slick passing, this West Bromwich side has the potential to be the best one in 30 years. Di Matteo has added some sublime skill to a good footballing side with some astute signings. Whilst Peter Odemwingie gets all the glory, I have to say two players that have really impressed me so far are Chris Brunt and Nicky Shorey.
Brunt is one of those criminally underrated players who simply doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. A lovely footballer with a sweet eye for a killer pass or cross, Brunt has impressed me for several seasons. He is thriving in this West Bromwich team and it is richly deserved. He has consistently impressed me since he burst on to the scene with Sheffield Wednesday in 2004 and he has continued to improve year on year.
He is the Throstles key man for me, he makes the side tick and Di Matteo has rightly got him playing the best football of his career so far. Shorey on the other hand has had a torrid couple of years. He was touted for a bright future whilst at Reading, but lost his way after his move to Aston Villa turned sour. You know you’ve fallen out of favour when a right back is being played at left back instead of you. Sometimes it happens to a good player, some moves just don’t work out, David Bentley at Tottenham is a case in point.
Shorey though has begun to return to form, after a spell on loan at Nottingham Forest seemed to bring his confidence back and now he too is performing exceptionally well for W.B.A. and the side is really benefiting from it. This for me is the teams breakthrough season and about time too in my opinion, the Hawthorns is one of my favourite away grounds and the club is progressive and positive. I hope they can keep building on this excellent start to the season.