Inside The Hawthorns

Wednesday 19 February 2014 09:00

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, Baggies fan Craig Hughes provides us with the lowdown on his team.

It’s been an eventful season at The Hawthorns with Steve Clarke departing and Pepe Mel coming in. What have you made of your campaign so far?

Eventful sums it up well! The record finish of eighth last term increased expectations around the club, particularly amongst the fans. After failing to tempt Romelu Lukaku back we were clearly short of goals but a mid-table finish was still expected. Despite some questionable starting line-ups early on, Mel has the fans’ backing because of his record with Real Betis and tactical shuffling in games to come back against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea. Most of us are very nervous that we could go down, though!

The January transfer window was a fairly quiet one for the Baggies – would you like to have seen the club do a bit more business?

Jeremy Peace and the board have a strict rule of only ‘topping up’ in January; no major purchases. Typically, January signings come with inflated price tags and are a gamble in terms of how quickly they’ll settle, so this is understandable. Our decision-making has been solid for more than a decade so we’ve got no complaints there.  However, that policy looks shaky if you then sell arguably your best striker [Shane Long] in the window.

What about your summer signings – how have they fared?

Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano both started strongly but have been inconsistent. Victor Anichebe has now begun to show promise. Diego Lugano seems off the pace and Scott Sinclair has never got going. Nicolas Anelka looked really lively in pre-season with a few goals but has since been underwhelming.

What’s the verdict on Mel, or is it too early to say?

Positive. Early signs are that he’s tactically astute, not afraid to shake things up and impose his philosophies, has an eye for a substitution and has an attacking mentality, which is going down well. If we go down, *gulp*, I’d be happy with him staying around.

With 12 games remaining, what’s the target now for Albion? Survival?

Survival. Pure and simple. We need to pick up a few more points away from home and be more ruthless in converting draws. We’ve drawn more games (12) than anyone in the league. The next highest after that is nine, which a few teams are on.

Fulham, too, will be desperate for the win and are looking for a repeat of the New Year’s Day 2013 victory. What sort of game do you anticipate?

West Brom are playing well at home, but Fulham will be energised by Felix Magath, who’s an impressive capture for a struggling side. I’d expect a close game decided by a defensive mistake at one end.

Which West Brom players have stood out for you this season?

Saido Berahino. He’s been a breath of fresh air right from pre-season. Still raw and with a lot to learn but without his goals we’d be in trouble. He’s a very talented player and it’s great to see our investment in the academy paying off.

Which Fulham players will you be most wary of?

Konstantinos Mitroglou will no doubt be a threat – I’ve seen his goals from the Under-21 match at Aston Villa!

What one song are we bound to hear the home fans sing?

‘Gareth, Gareth McAuley is better than J.T.’ (to the tune of ‘Heartbeat’).

Can you recommend a good place for the Fulham fans to grab a pint before the game?

The Vine – it’s open to both sets of fans. The best tandoori that side of Birmingham, great beer and a good atmosphere.

Finally, what’s your score prediction for the match?

Ever the optimist, I’ll go for a 2-1 home win!