By JOHN WRAGG who has covered the Midlands football scene for over 40 years, working mainly for the Daily Express as their No1 reporter. He has seen the heady days of Ron Atkinson’s exciting team of the heady 1980s to the Baggies plunging into the third tier of English football and fighting their way back.Now uncompromising boss Tony Pulis has established West Brom as a Premier League club and is looking to kick on and invade Europe.Here is Wragg’s assessment of what the Hammers will face on Saturday …..thanks Wraggy!
By John Wragg
GARETH Barry is looking for a record on Saturday and West Brom boss Tony Pulis is looking for a reaction to a poor performance at Brighton.
Pulis was not a happy man after the Baggies lost their first game of the season with barely a whimper.
The Pulis volume has been turned up this week at the training ground- and with Gary Megson now at West Brom as his No2, you can be sure it’s been in stereo.
Pulis accused his players of “not being at it “in critical stages of the Brighton disappointment and is demanding they make up for that against West Ham.
Three wins and a draw from their opening games had West Brom beginning to think of a charge for Europe this season- until the let down by the sea.
Pulis has revamped his squad after a fade out last season that saw them drop from eighth , and the Europa League on their horizon, to finish tenth with one win in their last 12 games.
Gareth Barry was signed from Everton to bring some added know how to the team in another bid for Europe and he has played every game, including the Carabao Cup, since joining.
He’s not short on graft is Barry and at 36 years old will equal Ryan Giggs’ record number of Premier League appearances on Saturday.
It will be Barry’s 632nd Premier League game and then, if all goes well, he will become the hardest working man in football away to Arsenal a week on Monday.
Another veteran, Gareth McAuley, at 37, could be back after injury.
He had a 45 minute run out to test his thigh injury this week and Pulis will welcome no-none sense McAuley back in his team, not least because he got the 94th minute equaliser that salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Baggies against West Ham the last time they met in February.
Pulis loves big, tall defenders . One of them, Egyptian Ahmed Hegazi, also signed in this season’s revamp, could be left out for McAuley’s first game since Chelsea’s title winning game at The Hawthorns in May.
Jonny Evans, who was wanted by Man City but didn’t go, will be making his 200th PL start in Pulis’ defensive land of the giants, but it’s up front where West Brom still have problems.
Salomon Rondon has never been the prolific goal scorer predicted since his club record £12m signing two years ago.
Nacer Chadli made the fatal mistake of telling Pulis he didn’t want to go on a pre-season training trip to Austria and apart from being sentenced to a Carabao Cup trip to Accrington, hasn’t been seen since.
It leaves Jay Rodriguez, bought for another £12m from Southampton in the summer, as the Baggies lively, pacey, tricky main hope for a goal, something Pulis has tried to help with the arrival of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Oliver Burke.
Krychowiak has hardly played for PSG in France but made a decent start at Brighton to his season’s WBA loan and Burke, at £15m, is a powerful attacking addition.
With Krychowiak’s passing ability and Burke’s surges from wide attacking positions, Pulis is hoping that Barry will get a day to remember.
Sounds like we have no chance
Why bother going just give them the points
Hope we play AC with The pea
Arnie Obiang Kouyate ( cap ) Antonio
Cressie Oggy Reid Zac
I’d leave Arnie out, bring in Fonte or Oggy and stick with the back three. COYI X