When Tony Pulis’ West Brom hosted Bournemouth for the opening game of the 2017/18 Premier League season, their eighth consecutive season in England’s top flight, it can be said that supporters were hopeful for a positive result from a winnable start to the season. A goal by new loan signing Ahmed Hegazi gave the Baggies a winning start to a Premier League season, just as they had achieved a season earlier at Selhurst Park.
The following week, a Hal Robson-Kanu goal saw off Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor, thus becoming the first time the club had won their two opening fixtures in the English top-flight since 1978-1979. A draw against Stoke City left the Baggies in a very promising fifth position, above last season’s champions Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham and level with now runaway leaders Manchester City.
However, their unbeaten league run ended at the hands of Premier League newcomers, Brighton & Hove Albion and the club would only collect five points out of the next possible 30. In amongst their string of poor results, Tony Pulis reached 100 Premier League games in charge of West Brom, the first manager at the club to do so. By the end of November, with the club sitting in 17th, Pulis was relieved of his duties and replaced by ex-Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew.
Pardew would have to wait until his 9th game in charge to receive his first win, a 2-0 defeat of Brighton, despite this result West Brom were solidly in the relegation zone in 19th place. After finishing 10th in the Premier League last season, many fans would have hoped the club would push on or at least consolidate their position, but with 10 games remaining they are firmly anchored to the foot of the table seven points from safety, having picked up only 20 points from their 28 games.
West Brom’s troubles continued off the pitch in February as club owner Guochuan Lai sacked both the Chairman and Chief Executive and the widely-reported misdemeanours of four senior players whilst the club were on a short break to Barcelona has lead many to question if manager Alan Pardew has lost the dressing room. More questions were asked when a reported argument between Pardew and the club’s longest serving player, Chris Brunt, emerged following the 2-1 home defeat to Huddersfield on the 24th February. Pardew later responded that he would expect fans to be pleased with the passion shown by the players regarding their current predicament.
According to a recent BBC article predicting the final outcome of the Premier League table, in the past five seasons, only three teams that sat in the relegation zone at this stage of the season survived and the average points required to achieve safety has been 37. The article stated that it is predicted that West Brom will gain another 12 points but still finish bottom of the league table and therefore be relegated to the Championship for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
As unlikely as it is that Pardew’s side will almost match their season’s points total in just 10 games, this is not a position that Baggies fans haven’t faced before. In the 2004/05 season, West Brom sat bottom of the league at Christmas and were still there come the final day of the season. That season, they only won six out of their 38 games but a 2-0 win against Portsmouth on the final day of the season saw them finish in 17th place, one point clear of the relegation zone. That day, West Brom became the first of only three teams to be bottom at Christmas and survive: Sunderland in 2013/14 and Leicester City in 2014/15, the season before their historic Premier League win.
West Brom look incredibly unlikely to retain their Premier League status for a ninth consecutive season but with only three of their next 10 opponents being in the top six they at least have a lifeline, however thin that may be. With one win to their name since August, and more 0-0 draws than any other team in the league, in addition to their modest goal tally of 22 goals, a sequel to the famous ‘Great Escape’ looks unlikely.
Image courtesy of @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London