This weekend sees us face our biggest game of the season, as we take on local rivals Wolves at The Hawthorns.
Over the last four or five years, our record against our neighbours from Staffordshire has been very good in the main, with us winning five of the last nine meetings between the two sides and losing only twice.
With derby fever gripping the Black Country and one house in Sussex, I think the best thing to write about this week is my three favourite victories over the Wolves.
I’m sure everyone will have different opinions on this, especially seeing as my top three have all taken place during the last five years. However, there are certainly a fair few victories to look back on over the last few years.
The first game I will look back on is our 3-0 victory at Molineux in the FA Cup in January 2007. With it being a cup match, we were allocated all of the South Bank and created a brilliant atmosphere as goals from Diomansy Kamara, Kevin Phillips and Zoltan Gera helped us to an emphatic victory.
Another victory which saw us really exert our authority over our local rivals was the second leg of The Championship play-off semi-final in May 2007. Leading 3-2 from the first leg at Molineux, we booked our place at Wembley with a comfortable 1-0 victory courtesy of a Kevin Phillips goal. With this being our fourth victory over Wolves during the season, there was a real sense of optimism that we could beat Derby County in the play-off final. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case, but the fact that we had well and truly secured local bragging rights for another season provided some kind of consolation.
The final victory over Wolves which really stands out in my mind is our 1-0 victory at Molineux in April 2008, as we closed in on The Championship title and promotion to the Premier League. A goal from Zoltan Gera was enough to seal the three points, and ensure that the local bragging rights remained with the Albion fans after we had been held to a 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns earlier in the season.
Although it was not a victory, I think last season’s home game against Wolves also deserves a mention. Despite playing rather poorly for relatively long periods of the game, a goal from Carlos Vela in the final minute of injury-time ensured that we avoided defeat and picked up a point which kick-started our season as we avoided relegation comfortably.
However, the game at Molineux last season was arguably one of our worst performances of the campaign and saw us suffer a 3-1 defeat. Despite the fact that our Premier League status had been secured mathematically the previous day, the reaction of the supporters to such a poor performance in a local derby will have shown Roy Hodgson and the players that we cannot afford to produce a similar display again.
Although there have been no club games for the last ten days or so, a number of our players have represented their countries around the world during crucial international matches.
Notable performances came from Craig Dawson, Paul Scharner, Simon Cox and Saido Berahino.
Dawson scored his third goal in only his fourth appearance for the England U21s during their 2-1 win in Norway, despite carrying a head injury which required several stitches. His defensive display and determination earned him a great deal of praise from Stuart Pearce.
Despite being dropped for the last two Albion games, Scharner played the full 90 minutes in each of Austria’s two European Championship qualifiers - against Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan respectively.
Cox played 80 minutes for the Republic of Ireland during their 2-1 victory over Armenia, receiving the official Man of the Match award in the process.
Berahino, who has been scoring goals for fun in the Reserves this season, added to his tally with two goals for the England U19s as they beat Ukraine 3-1 on Sunday.
The main problem with having an international break before such a big league game is that it can lead to injuries, which appears to be the case for one or two of our players at the moment.
Chris Brunt, who played in Northern Ireland’s 2-1 defeat at home to Estonia last Friday, had to return to the club with an ankle injury and is now a doubt to face Wolves. Peter Odemwingie is also a doubt, although he is expected to be given the all-clear by a specialist in Amsterdam today over an ankle injury which may have been troubling him for quite some time.
The only other new injury worry is that of Steven Reid, who has got a fractured hand and seems unlikely to play on Sunday. The most likely candidate to replace him is Billy Jones, who would be making his Premier League debut if he does start against Wolves.
Sunday will be a massive test of the determination of our players to improve their form and try and go on a better run now. It won’t be easy against a Wolves side who will undoubtedly be up for the game, but we have enough players to cause them problems and we have to hope that this will enough to help us get a positive result.
The atmosphere at these games is always a bit different and always makes them a special occasion, so hopefully it can be the Albion fans celebrating at the final whistle!
What is your favourite victory against the Wolves? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.