It seems as though we are having an international break almost every month at the moment, which means that there is often very little to talk about Albion-wise.
This has particularly been the case on this occasion, with only a handful of our players actually going away on international duty. The likes of Paul Scharner, Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long would normally have been away with their respective national sides, but have been spending the two-week break from club football trying to recover from injury.
George Thorne was one player who was on international duty, representing the England U19s in a friendly against Denmark at The Amex, a game which I attended. Thorne came on at half-time, was given the captaincy and really took control of the game in central midfield. Saido Berahino was also meant to be in the squad, but was withdrawn by Northampton Town with their FA Cup tie at Luton Town just two days later in mind.
Craig Dawson was another one of our young players who made an impact whilst on international duty. He represented the England U21s in both of their games during this international break, scoring his fourth goal in only his fifth game for the side in their 5-0 victory over Iceland.
Simon Cox made a brief substitute appearance in each of the two games the Republic of Ireland played against Estonia in the play-offs for the European Championships, although his appearances were so brief that he was unable to make an impact as the Irish comfortably qualified for next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.
James Morrison played the whole game for Scotland during their 2-1 friendly victory in Cyprus, with Graham Dorrans being withdrawn from the squad due to an ankle injury which he has now recovered from.
Another Albion player who featured for his national side this week was Jonas Olsson, who represented Sweden in their friendly defeats to Denmark and England respectively.
However, the player who has taken the most from this international break is Zoltan Gera. The Hungarian international featured in his side’s 5-0 victory over Liechtenstein last week, before playing the full 90 minutes of their 2-1 defeat in Poland last night. Gera was clearly lacking match fitness before the international break, but playing in two international matches should mean that he is very nearly ready to play 90 minutes in the Premier League.
The other main Albion update this week has seen Michael Appleton leave his position as assistant manager at the club to become the new Portsmouth manager. A lot of our supporters have not been convinced by Appleton since his astonishing display of tactical naivety during our 3-3 draw against West Ham United, while he was in caretaker charge before Roy Hodgson officially took over. Despite this, he is obviously a very highly-rated coach within the game and I wish him all the best as he looks to make an impact at Portsmouth.
This weekend sees us take on Bolton Wanderers in a game which has taken on added significance after our last two results and, perhaps more importantly, the nature of the performances.
It is set to be our highest home attendance of the season with Bolton selling out their allocation of 2,600 due to free coach travel, and pretty much the entire home end being full as well due to cheaper ticket prices. As of yesterday, there were only single seats left in any stand, with the Smethwick End being sold out, so you would like to think that we could be heading for a sell-out on Saturday.
Bolton come into this game after beating Stoke City 5-0 in their previous match, although Stoke had played in a high-intensity Europa League game in Israel less than 72 hours previously.
We could be without key trio Paul Scharner, Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long who, as I mentioned earlier, stayed at the club during the international break to try and recover from the injuries they picked up in recent matches and training.
There is no doubt that Roy Hodgson has to make changes to the team on Saturday, although is impossible to second-guess him when it comes to team selection.
Whilst I would certainly not say that any game this early in the season could be seen as a ‘must-win’, there is no doubt that this is the kind of game we should be looking to win if we want to build on our impressive Premier League finish last season.
If we put in a good performance on Saturday, hopefully we will pick up a positive result and try and put a decent run of form together!
Can you Albion beat Bolton on Saturday? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.