Most supporters of club sides will tell you that an international break this early in the season is unnecessary, especially when you have to wait another two weeks to potentially pick up your first points of the season.
However, the international fortnight proved particularly beneficial for Craig Dawson, who marked his debut for the England U21s with two goals against Azerbaijan, before being one of only two outfield players to play the full 90 minutes in their friendly win over Israel four days later.
These solid defensive displays have led to some Albion fans claiming that Dawson is ready to start a Premier League game, possibly even against Norwich City this weekend. I have yet to be convinced by Gabriel Tamas partnering the impressive Jonas Olsson at the heart of our defence, but I think throwing a 21-year-old defender who has not played club football at a standard higher than League One during his career would be a big risk.
One player who did not enjoy such a beneficial spell with his national side was Gareth McAuley, whose two errors contributed to Northern Ireland’s 4-1 defeat in Estonia which ended their slim hopes of qualifying for the European Championships in 2012. Albion captain Chris Brunt played in both of Northern Ireland’s games, but was unable to make an impact from what appeared to be a central midfield position.
Other Albion players on international duty were James Morrison and Graham Dorrans (both Scotland), Simon Cox (Republic of Ireland), Jonas Olsson (Sweden), Paul Scharner (Austria) and Gonzalo Jara-Reyes (Chile).
This weekend sees us make a welcome return to Premier League action as we travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich City, who are also searching for their first win of the season.
Our next three games – Norwich City away, Swansea City away and Fulham at home – provide us with an opportunity to hopefully turn impressive performances into points, although I don’t think any game can be classed as a ‘must-win’ this early in the season.
However, I do acknowledge that we need to start picking up points sooner rather than later. We are now not playing any of the so-called ‘big’ clubs until the end of October, with each of our next six matches being against sides of a similar stature and with similar aspirations to ourselves. With this in mind, you would like to think that we have enough quality in our squad to get some points on the board over the next few weeks.
It is crucial that we use these next few games as a springboard for the rest of the season. It is easy to blame bad luck for our start to the season, but even Jonas Olsson has said that he is not happy with such excuses being made to defend defeats, despite the fact that two of them came against two of European football’s best clubs. You make your own luck in football, and it is down to the players to ensure that we get a bit of luck or that our quality shines through and helps us achieve some impressive results over the next few weeks.
The two-week break has been beneficial in allowing Zoltan Gera and Peter Odemwingie to recover from injury, although Shane Long’s chances of being available for Sunday are no better than 50/50 at this moment in time.
If we can get everybody fit and available, then hopefully the pessimism which has come from losing our opening three league games and failing to bring in a defender on deadline day can be eradicated and be replaced by the optimism of the last month or two of last season, when we achieved some outstanding results.
Is Craig Dawson ready for a first team start? And can Albion pick up points against Norwich on Sunday? Have your say at Baggies Banter here.