2009: A Year's Review - April to June

April

Tony Mowbray revealed his regret at not being able to sign another midfielder to compliment the attacking skills of Borja Valero after the midfielder’s absence from Albion’s starting XI in recent games. 

Abdoulaye Meite returned to training after a dramatic few days following the harrowing events in Malawi.  Carl Hoefkens was quick to clear up reports from the Belgium media he intended to quit Albion and England if the Baggies were relegated insisting his quotes had been lost in translation.

Borja Valero made his first start in four games against Stoke City as Tony Mowbray again shuffled his pack.  It only took the visitors minutes to extend their hoodoo over the Baggies when Shelton Martis misjudged a long ball and Ricardo Fuller somehow shot under Scott Carson from 20 yards.  The Baggies enjoyed more than 60% of possession but again couldn’t find a way past a well drilled Stoke backline.  Much like a mirror image of the first half, the visitors doubled their advantage four minutes after the break.  More comical defending from the hosts allowed James Beattie to volley home from 12 yards and continue the Potters’ hold over Albion.

After the final whistle Mowbray admitted his side lacked quality at both ends of the field and thanked the Baggies’ faithful for not turning on their team as Albion again shot themselves in the foot defensively. 

Youssouf Mulumbu made his long awaited debut for Albion for the reserves but was powerless to stop Portsmouth winning 3-0. 

First team coach Peter Grant believed that Albion and Gianni Zuiverloon were both suffering from the effects of the youngster’s trip to the Olympics in Beijing.  The right back’s form had dropped dramatically since his arrival back in August. 

Neil Clement admitted defeat in trying to return to competitive football for the season but hoped his knee would heal in time for a return in pre-season.  Jonathon Greening pledged his long-term future to club regardless of their league position next season.  The former Manchester United and Middlesbrough midfielder claimed he wanted to play 500 games for Albion before hanging up his boots.

Albion’s Under-15 academy side won the prestigious Nike Premier Cup after beating Everton on penalties.  The fledgling Baggies won five and drew one of their games and would now represent the Barclays Premier League and the FA at the world finals in Manchester in August.

James Morrison’s impressive performances were rewarded as the midfielder was presented with the Player of the Year Award by the West Bromwich Albion Disabled Supporters’ Club.

Borja Valero was quickly dropped in favour of Graham Dorrans for Albion’s trip to Portsmouth.  The other surprise inclusion was 17-year-old Chris Wood who was named amongst Albion’s subs.  Youssouf Mulumbu was also included on the bench.  The Baggies again edged the possession stakes at Fratton Park however found themselves behind following a fine individual goal from Younes Kaboul.  Jonathan Greening equalled the scores minutes after half-time with his second goal of the season – both against Pompey.  Albion then took the lead in the 62nd minute when Chris Brunt’s deflected free kick left David James rooted to the spot.  Graham Dorrans ran away claiming his first Albion goal although it was later awarded to Brunt. 

The visitors were only ahead for three minutes when Nico Kranjcar’s free kick gave Scott Carson no hope from 25-yards.  Young striker Chris Wood and Youssouf Mulumbu both made their full Albion debuts but were unable to help Albion secure a valuable three points. 

After the point at Fratton Park Tony Mowbray refused to admit defeat in the Baggies’ bid against relegation but did admit they’d be a force in next season’s Championship.  The Baggies boss also revealed Luke Moore’s absence from the Pompey squad was due to ‘tactical reasons’.

Albion’s academy went from strength to strength as they won an international tournament in Holland.  The kids beat FC Volendam 5-3 in a shootout.  Jay Simpson revealed his eagerness to return to Arsenal when his loan spell ended with Tony Mowbray insisting his selection would not be in jeopardy.   The Baggies boss also believed back-to-back victories against Manchester City and Sunderland would get Albion right back in the relegation battle.  The Baggies hadn’t won back-to-back games since late September/early October.

Albion were unchanged for the first time in 17 league games as they travelled to Manchester City.  The Baggies attacked from the outset and had three early chances but were behind after eight minutes when Robinho fired home following a clever Stephen Ireland pass.  Albion were again on the end of a shocking referring decision from Mike Jones – remember Blackburn at home and the ‘shirt pull’? – when Scott Carson was clearly blocked off by striker Caicedo allowing Onuoha to head home into an empty net.  The ‘keeper, clearly infuriated, chased the official up field and received a booking for his efforts.

With Albion two down inside 21 minutes the Baggies seemed doomed however staged a remarkable comeback.  Chris Brunt scored one of Albion’s finest goals of the season when he curled home a Marc-Antonie Fortuné pass following good wing-play from Robert Koren.  The Baggies then drew level in the 54th minute when Brunt curled an unstoppable 25-yard free-kick past the diving Shay Given.

However just like at Portsmouth, they conceded two minutes later when Jonas Olsson unnecessarily fouled Elano in the area.  The Brazilian duly slotted home the penalty.  All of Albion’s hard work had gone to waste.  With Albion pushing forward for another equaliser, Daniel Sturridge scored a tap-in to register City’s fourth of the afternoon in stoppage time.

Tony Mowbray again rued familiar short-comings in defence and insisted Scott Carson was right to fight his corner following another poor decision going against Albion.

Juan Carlos Menseguez scored his first goals in Albion colours for the reserves against Chelsea.  Boasting the likes of Carvalho, Belletti, Mancienne and Di Santo in their team, the Argentinean showed a glimpse of things which were to come in the final few games of Albion’s season.

Scottish hotshot striker Leigh Griffiths joined the Baggies on trial for a week after scoring 17 goals in 25 starts for Livingston.  Tony Mowbray hinted that Menseguez was finally ready for his first full debut after passing the ‘Paul Robinson test’ in training.

The Baggies boss also insisted that Albion had nothing to fear in their final five games of the season.  Academy starlets George Thorne and Saido Berahino both helped England to victory in the Montaigu Tournament in France – even beating Germany on penalties in the process.

Want-away Jay Simpson was recalled in place of the injured James Morrison for the visit of Sunderland as Albion searched for their first win in 11 games.  With Graham Dorrans having his most impressive game in an Albion shirt the Baggies had the best of the early chances with Chris Brunt twice coming close after drawing saves from Marton Fulop.  After Scott Carson had made a fantastic save to deny old-boy Kieran Richardson, Jonas Olsson gave the Baggies a deserved lead five minutes from half time.  A Jonathan Greening corner was flicked on by Abdoulaye Meite who found his defensive partner at the back post with the Swede firing home an acrobatic volley. 

Albion controlled the game after the break with Chris Brunt scoring his fourth game in three games on the hour mark after great work down the right from Marc-Antonie Fortuné.  Juan Carlos Menseguez then came off the bench to score in the 88th minute to cap a comprehensive Albion win against a poor Sunderland outfit.

Jonas Olsson was relieved to make amends following his error at Manchester City with his goal against the Black Cats but insisted Albion’s seventh clean-sheet of the season meant more to him.

The club decided to extend the contract of Shelton Martis for an additional year after the centre back’s recent displays.  Chris Wood was also awarded the accolade of the Nike Young Men’s Player of the Year Award at the 2008 New Zealand Football Awards.  Graham Dorrans impressive Premier League appearances earned him his first Scotland B call-up against Northern Ireland.  Young striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu was also selected by England for the UEFA Under-17s Championship finals in Germany.

May

The Baggies arranged the first of their pre-season fixtures after agreeing to travel to the Bescot Stadium for the third time in four years.  Chris Brunt played down his goalscoring streak preferring to praise the hard work of Marc-Antonie Fortuné up front.  Joe Corrigan also announced he was going to retire at the end of the season. 

Tony Mowbray made three changes for Albion’s trip to face Tottenham Hotspur with Youssouf Mulumbu making his first Premier League start in place of the injured Graham Dorrans.  Borja Valero replaced Jay Simpson with Shelton Martis partnering Jonas Olsson.  Albion more than matched their north London opponents throughout and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of 1-0 scoreline.  After Jermaine Jenas had given Spurs the lead minutes before half-time, Shelton Martis missed two glorious chances from Chris Brunt set-pieces to equalise.  The defeat left Albion six points from safety with three games left to play.

Tony Mowbray believed that Albion deserved more at White Hart Lane with Shelton Martis disappointed not to celebrate his contract extension with a goal.  Graham Dorrans was also forced out of the Scotland B squad due to his foot injury.

Albion supporters decided to pay homage the Baggies boss during the final game of the season with Mowbray admitting he was ‘humbled’ at their decision.  The Baggies also arranged their second pre-season fixture away at Whaddon Road to face Cheltenham.

David Worrall had his loan spell at Shrewsbury extended so he could feature in the League Two play-offs.  Chris Wood’s dramatic rise to fame culminated with the young Kiwi being selected for the Confederations Cup in South Africa in June.

Jeremy Peace urged all Albion fans to complete the final stages of the season with their heads held high on the day Graham Dorrans signed a new and improved three-year deal, plus a further year in the club’s favour, only days after his 22nd birthday.

Dean Kiely made his first league start of the season against Wigan Athletic with Juan Carlos Menseguez also making a full debut for the Throstles.  Graham Dorrans returned to the starting XI with Marek Cech also making his first start since December.  Young stopper Ryan Allsop was also included on the bench for the first time.  The Baggies knew that a defeat and a Hull victory at Stoke would relegate them and started off nervously. 

After early nerves Albion quickly found their feet with Marc-Antonie Fortuné heading home after Chris Kirkland could only parry Gianni Zuiverloon’s shot in the 8th minute.  Dean Kiely then made an amazing double save to first deny Michael Brown and then Olivier Kapo before Juan Carlos Menseguez turned Titus Bramble inside out before being denied by substitute Kingston in the Wigan goal.

The Latics equalised via a fortunate deflection in the 17th minute which left Dean Kiely with no chance.  Kiely was on full form on the brink of half time as Antonio Valencia easily disposed Jonas Olsson but couldn’t find a way past the Albion ‘keeper when one-on-one.  Albion’s stopper made an even better save seven minutes after the break when he somehow parried Mario Melchiot’s effort to keep the hosts in the game.  Kiely’s heroics paid off just before the hour when Fortuné took advantage of sloppy Wigan defending and was brought down by Bramble for a clear penalty.  Chris Brunt stepped up and blasted the ball home. 

Borja Valero, having one of his better games in an Albion shirt, then set up Fortuné for this second goal of the game.  The hard-working striker jinked inside and somehow beat Kingston at his near post to record his fourth of the season.  The result left Albion only three points from safety with two games left to play.

Tony Mowbray rightly laid praise at the door of Dean Kiely for his impressive performance against Wigan.  The Baggies boss also believed if he’d had his current squad back in August it would’ve been a different story for Albion.

Luke Daniels and David Worrall helped Shrewsbury reach the League Two play-off at Wembley.  Albion’s young keeper saved one spot-kick in normal time before two penalty saves in the shootout earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown was awarded a star on Broad Street in Birmingham following a fans’ poll.  Tony Mowbray hoped to persuade Marc-Antonie Fortuné to stay with Albion beyond his loan spell with a number of clubs reportedly interested in his signature.

Craig Beattie became the third Albion player to reach Wembley as he helped Sheffield United beat Preston in the Championship play-off semi-finals.  Graham Dorrans was ruled out for the rest of the season after x-ray results showed he’d broken a metatarsal – a week after they’d shown no break!

In the build-up to the all important game against Liverpool Tony Mowbray urged his players to ignore previous results and the history books.  Paul Downing won the official Young Player of the Year Award 2008/09 for a number of outstanding performances for the academy and reserves which saw him on the brink of the first-team.

Ryan Donk was recalled at left-back after both Paul Robinson and Marek Cech were ruled out through injury for the visit of Liverpool.  Youssouf Mulumbu made his full home debut with Robert Koren recalled in place of Borja Valero.  With Albion needing to win to avoid relegation and Liverpool’s title hopes dashed the previous day, the Baggies more than matched their second placed opponents. 

Clearances from Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher denied Albion early on before Jonathan Greening almost opened the scoring in the first five minutes.  Unmarked at the back post Albion’s skipper saw both his point-blank efforts blocked by Reina in the Liverpool goal.  Albion were on top with Dean Kiely untroubled in the Albion goal however that was to change in the 28th minute.  With no players or danger around him Martis somehow lost possession allowing Steven Gerrard to run through on goal and chip Kiely in the Albion goal.  The Baggies were a goal down and heading down.  As the half wore on Liverpool created more chances with Kiely at full stretch to tip Fernando Torres’ header on to the crossbar and over for a corner.

Albion were again on the wrong end of a referring decision on the hour mark as the Baggies pushed forward for an equaliser.  Menseguez found himself clear of the Reds’ defence following a clever pass from Robert Koren and squared the ball to Fortuné who had the easy task of rolling the ball into an empty net.  However before the forward could connect with the ball he was tackled from behind by Lucas with referee Atkinson waving away the loud Hawthorns appeals. 

The visitors took full advantage when Dirk Kuyt scored three minutes later with Kiely again keeping the scores down following a point blank save from Lucas.  Luke Moore then hit the post as Albion tried to find a way back into the game with Fortuné missing a glorious headed chance late on.  The striker finally found the net but had his effort disallowed ten minutes from the end.

At the final whistle the Hawthorns stood as one and gave Albion’s players, Tony Mowbray and his backroom staff a standing ovation in an amazing show of solidarity and support.  No other Premier League club had been relegated and applauded from the field in the manner which Albion fans did that afternoon.   

Tony Mowbray revealed his frustration that his side has been relegated and felt for the fans after the defeat to Liverpool.  The Baggies boss also backed Shelton Martis to bounce back from his error which gifted Steven Gerrard his opener.  Skipper Jonathan Greening admitted the Baggies had given the Liverpool game their best shot but came agonisingly short.

Prior to the kick-off newspaper reports allegedly showed Roman Bednar purchasing drugs outside his Sutton Coldfield home from an undercover reporter.  The striker was immediately suspended while the club investigated the matter. 

Chris Brunt was awarded the official Player-of-the-Year Award for 2008/09 after scoring eight goals from midfield.  James Morrison came second with Robert Koren in third.

Jonas Olsson urged Albion to go out with a bang at Blackburn with Dean Kiely tipping the Baggies to boing back next season.  Jonathan Greening urged Albion’s players to stick together and also backed Tony Mowbray’s long term vision for the club.

The Baggies boss expressed his desire to sign Juan Carlos Menseguez and Youssouf Mulumbu on permanent deals before Jeremy Peace revealed Pele, Carl Hoefkens and Jared Hodgkiss were to be released in the summer.  The chairman also outlined his plan to trim the senior squad to just 20 players.  Peace also insisted none of Albion’s players would be sold ‘unless it suits the club’.  Tony Mowbray also revealed that Marek Cech was free to leave The Hawthorns at the end of the season – but not on the cheap.

Shelton Martis was ruled out of Albion’s final game of the season after undergoing a double hernia operation.  Tony Mowbray also ruled out a swoop for his former skipper Rob Jones from Hibernian. 

Luke Daniels and David Worrall suffered Wembley heartache as Shrewsbury conceded a 90th minute goal to hand Gillingham promotion.  Daniels played the whole game while Worrall entered as a 74th minute substitute.

Paul Robinson recovered from his ankle injury to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in which would be his last appearance for the club.  Ryan Donk also started his last game for the club before his loan spell ended alongside Jonas Olsson.  Youngsters Romanie Sawyers, Paul Downing and Chris Wood all started on the bench. 

With the majority of the 2,900 visiting fans wearing Mowbray masks in tribute to the Baggies boss the end of season curtain raiser was nothing to write home about.  Defender Chris Samba came closest to opening the scoring in the 16th minute when his shot rebounded back off the post.  After Kiely had made a smart save from a Pedersen free kick Albion hit the woodwork themselves.  Jonathan Greening skipped past Keith Andrews down the left and found Brunt at the back post who then swivelled and shot at Robinson.  The England international did well to parry the effort on to the bar and away to safety.

After the break it was all Albion with Marc-Antonie Fortuné missing a header and Jonathan Greening and Chris Brunt guilty of missing opportunities as Albion tried to find a way to their second away victory of the season.  Referee Mike Jones – remember him? – then bizarrely sent off former striker Jason Roberts for allegedly elbowing Jonas Olsson as the game petered out.  The final whistle came with Mowbray and Albion’s players entering the pitch to wave at the away fans. The Baggies had missed out on survival by just three points as they finished bottom of the Premier League with 32 points from 38 games.

Mowbray admitted afterwards it was the same old story for Albion in front of goal but was pleased with his side’s eighth clean sheet of the season.  The boss also insisted there would be no easy games in the Championship next term.

Scott Carson finished a disappointing season on a high by being recalled for England to face Kazakhstan and Andorra in World Cup Qualifiers.

Jonathan Greening insisted he was ready for another shot at winning the Championship with Albion as Craig Beattie also suffered Wembley heartache with Sheffield United at the hands of Burnley.

Albion’s academy won another competition on foreign soil clinching the Norhalne Elite Cup in Denmark.  The Baggies’ under-11 and under-12 squad beat hosts Aalborg 5-1 in the final.  Academy graduate Chris Wood signed his first professional contract with the club penning a two-year deal, plus a further year in the club’s favour.

As the month drew to an end Tony Mowbray was heavily linked to the vacant Celtic post after Gordon Strachan’s departure.  Jeremy Peace issued a stern hands-off warning insisting the manager was under contract for the next two seasons.  In coming days Peace insisted the club had not received an approach and ‘nor we welcome one’. 

Refurbishment began on upgrading The Hawthorns with the playing surface and supporter’s facilities improved.  The iconic pictured seats in the Smethwick and Birmingham Road ends were replaced in favoured of a dark blue shade as many fans accused Jeremy Peace of again taking a small piece of the club’s identity and soul away.

The Baggies confirmed a third pre-season friendly against Shrewsbury Town at the Pro-Star Stadium as they moved into June.

June

Albion were already preparing for next season adding visits to Swindon Town and Histon – where they would kick-off their pre-season preparations.  Ishmael Miller was presented with the club’s official Goal of the Season Award following his superb individual strike against Blackburn back in November.  Robert Koren’s unstoppable efforts against Middlesbrough and Burnley came in second and third place.

Chris Wood made his international debut at the tender age of just 17 for New Zealand playing 55 minutes in the All Whites’ 2-1 friendly defeat to Tanzania.  Marek Cech also scored a brace for Slovakia against San Marino.

After weeks of speculation Celtic finally made an official approach to speak to manager Tony Mowbray about the vacant Park Head position.  Jeremy Peace again rebuffed the Hoops’ interest in the Baggies boss but did reveal Mowbray had a compensation figure in his contract, and should the Scottish giants meet that figure, he’d be powerless to stop Albion’s chief leaving the club.  Mowbray remained tip-lipped throughout the whole progress.  His silence said a thousand words.

The Baggies arranged a trip to Robert Koren’s homeland, Slovenia, to play two friendlies against NK Nafta and NK Varteks regardless of who the manager would be for the forthcoming Championship season.  A visit to face Port Vale at Vale Park was also arranged.

On Monday 15th June Celtic were finally given permission to speak to Tony Mowbray after the two clubs agreed in principle to a £2 million compensation package.  The Hoops would also have to pay Albion for the services of assistant manager Mark Venus and first team coach Peter Grant.

The Baggies agreed their final pre-season fixture, and only one at The Hawthorns, against French top-flight side AS Nancy.  Albion were also drawn away to Bury in the north section of the Carling Cup first round. 

Only days after being granted permission to talk to Celtic, Tony Mowbray left his position as manager of West Bromwich Albion Football Club on Thursday 18th June after joining in October 2006.  Mark Venus and Peter Grant would also follow north.  The Baggies boss had been at the helm for one of the club’s most successful periods in decades after reaching the play-off final at Wembley; the FA Cup semi-final for the first time in decades; and Albion’s first league trophy in 88 years.  Mowbray’s style of football conjured more than 100 goals in successive seasons, and although he received many plaudits during the Premier League campaign, it was his expansive nature which ultimately saw Albion relegated by an agonising three points. 

On the same day Mowbray left the fixtures were released with the Baggies opening their Championship campaign against fellow relegated side Newcastle United at The Hawthorns.  The Baggies would finish at home against Barnsley.

Albion launched their new kits for the 2009/10 season and announced a free open day at The Hawthorns – where incidentally the new kits would be sold.  A trip to Kidderminster Harriers was also arranged where an Albion XI would visit as part as Albion’s build-up in pre-season.

The Baggies were linked with a number of names for the vacant manager’s position with Alan Irvine believed to be the front runner.  However Irvine arrived and left after an interview with the board categorically agreeing on the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo as Tony Mowbray’s successor.   The Italian agreed to become Albion’s new ‘head coach’ and signed a 12-month rolling contract.  Former Chelsea midfielder Eddie Newton would join as his assistant with Ade Mafe taking over as the head of sports science.  Jeremy Peace said: "We shortlisted two outstanding candidates, spoke to both of them after receiving permission from their clubs, and ultimately Roberto was the unanimous choice of the board."