On the opening day of the season, away back in August, I recall picking up the matchday programme, turning to the manager’s notes and reading a textbook use of the “Let’s get to 40 points as quick as we can and then see where we go from there” cliché.
Of course, the manager in question was Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace, but those sentiments would have been swirling around the minds of at least another dozen of his Premier League brethren, approaching that first game of the season with the usual heady mix of excitement and trepidation at what might lie ahead for them in the months to come.
As it turns out, his opposite number on the day, Tony Pulis, need have had no worries on that score, although I’m not entirely sure he felt that way at the time, even after we had set off in pursuit of the 40 with victory at Selhurst Park.
And when our season reached its nadir, with just four points harvested from four games and a League Cup exit at Northampton to boot, even one who has been there, done it and collected a wardrobe full of t-shirts, might have had a few causes for concern.
But the goings on since then have revealed that September 10th 2016 was just a staging post, the moment where it was darkest before the dawn, for since then, the Throstles have been a beast transformed.
The irony is that that grim afternoon came on the south coast in a 1-0 defeat to AFC Bournemouth, the side that we finally beat for the first time in four Premier League meetings to reach that all-important 40 point mark. A well deserved win it was too, for all that Ben Foster had to produce heroics at the death to preserve our slender lead.
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The Football League resumed just as this season will end, with the Throstles winging their way to Swansea, albeit that back on August 31st 1946, Swansea City were then still just a Town, playing their football on the Vetch Field rather than the Liberty Stadium.
Middlesbrough v Albion
We’ve been here before – notably at Hull and Sunderland – but the conundrum is, was this a point won or two spilled.
Chairman - John Williams
Things get taken for granted very quickly in football, such that very often, credit doesn’t get dished out when it’s due.
Jonny Evans - the way he plays . . .
The transfer market. It’s a difficult beast to handle, one fraught with danger, however good your research, however smartly you approach it. There’s always another club looking to steal a player from under your nose, or the player who looks a sure fire winner only to fail once a move is made. You can bring ten new faces in and watch them queue up to flop, or place your eggs in a solitary basket and still be crossing your fingers as the contract is inked.
albion v derby county
this was a 90 minutes that did have all the hallmarks of a classic fa cup tie but unfortunately those hallmarks tend to include the big club losing out to the smaller one after an impassioned rearguard action, helped by a healthy dose of (mis) fortune. on that score, this was the kind of game that has given the fa cup its huge reputation both in this country and around the world, but to be honest, we’d have much preferred a quiet, uneventful afternoon where, in the finish, the form book was upheld.
‘We were pleased that the supporters at least had something to take home with them after following us in such good numbers in terrible conditions’
Albion v Stoke City
Given the demise of alternative football clubs in the locality, Stoke has become our de facto derby game these days and did this one ever live up to that kind of billing, a feisty, feverish, blood and guts encounter that included home heroes, pantomime villains and a fairytale ending where we all lived happily ever after. Or at least the ones who count did – us.
Albion v Sunderland
It’s a mark of Albion’s growing confidence, maturity and, overall, quality that without ever really getting close to our best form, and coming out of the shadow of consecutive defeats, this win over Sunderland was every bit as routine for us as Manchester United’s was for them when they were at The Hawthorns before Christmas.
‘We have given ourselves a chance of having our best season in the Premier League era, and we really want to capitalise on that opportunity over these next three months’
Albion V Crystal Palace
The problem with getting used to the finer things in life is that if, on occasion, you are deprived of them, it stings all the more. And that’s exactly what happened against Palace for, after an amazing run of seven home wins in eight Premier League games at The Hawthorns, a run where we’ve been scoring goals and creating chances aplenty, this was one of those afternoons where we could have played until Sunday and still not scored.
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