2008: A year's review

Last updated : 26 January 2009 By Iain Bate - Wba-mad Editor

After the delights of hammering the Dingles time and time again back in 2007, the last twelve months will live long in the memory of each and every Albion fan. After winning our first league title in 88 years and reaching our first semi-final in 26 years, 2008 is one which will long be talked about throughout the Black Country and beyond - for both good and bad reasons. Here WBA Mad takes a look back at the last twelve months...

July

Filipe Teixeria gave Albion a pre-season training boost with the news he was returning to the Black Country to continue his rehabilitation after surgery on a serious knee injury. The Baggies also made their first signing of the season welcoming Dan Harris as the Head of Sports Science following two years at Birmingham City.

Shelton Martis injured a calf whilst playing for the Dutch Antilles with the world's most expensive pub playing converting his loan to Aston Villa into a permanent switch for an undisclosed fee - believed to be in the region of £10 million. The former Luton Town man made 73 appearances in a blue and white shirt scoring twice.

Following the completion of loan deals into permanent deals for Roman Bednar, Luke Moore and Kim Do-Heon, the unknown Dutch Under-21 defender, Gianni Zuiverloon, joined the Baggies for £3.25 million from Heerenveen. Scottish Under-21 international, Graeme Dorrans, also completed his £100,000 move from Livingston after agreeing the switch back in January.

Former Norwich boss, Peter Grant, replaced the void left by Craig Shakespeare as first-team coach with Mowbray delighted to bring his former Celtic teammate to The Hawthorns.

Mowbray admitted it was likely last season's top-scorer Kevin Phillips would be the third player to turn down a new contract and leave The Hawthorns after the Baggies boss refused to offer the England international the two-year contract he desired.

New signing Gianni Zuiverloon revealed he turned down a number of other Premier League clubs in order to join the Baggies and consulted Liverpool winger, Ryan Babbel, before putting pen to paper on a Hawthorns contract.

Kevin Phillips finally put to an end to his contract saga by deciding against signing on at Albion and joining Championship outfit, and near neighbours, Birmingham City, on a two-year contract. The soon to be 35-year-old turned down Albion's deal of a one-year contract followed by a second triggered by just 19 appearances in favour of St. Andrews and ended his two year stay at the club. The former England international made 71 appearances for Albion, including 11 as a sub, scoring 38 times - 24 of which came in the promotion winning season.

Gianni Zuiverloon was excused from Albion's trip to Holland prior to him linking up with his country for the Olympics in Beijing with youngster Joss Ladabie signing his first professional deal with Albion after progressing through the Academy ranks. The 17-year-old, who made 19 reserve appearances, including two from the bench, scoring three times last term, penned a one-year-deal, with a further year in the club's favour.

Albion started their pre-season preparations with a training match at Aggborough with Tony Mowbray giving his first-team squad and Academy players a 45-minute run-out. Bartosz Slusarski, Craig Beattie, Luke Moore and Sherjill MacDonald all found themselves on the score-sheet as more than 600 Baggies fans were treated to an evening of goals.

Tony Mowbray admitted new signing Graeme Dorrans could well be farmed out in order for him to adapt to the rigours of English football despite not kicking a ball in anger for the club, however was included in the 23-man squad which departed for the mini-tour of Holland and Germany.

Neil Clement backed the judgment of Tony Mowbray and Jeremy Peace despite only two new faces being added to last season's squad and was proved right when Slovakian international, Marek Cech, joined from Porto for £1.4 million on a three-year deal, plus a further year's option in the club's favour.

Albion kicked off their pre-season fixtures with a defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach after losing 2-1 at the Hubert Houben Stadium. Sherjill MacDonald scored for the Baggies with Robert Koren worrying limping off just short of the hour mark with a knee injury. The Slovenian international would be ruled out for a number of weeks as a result after injuring knee ligaments.

England international, Scott Carson, became Albion's seventh signing of the summer after completing a £3.25 million switch from Liverpool. The transfer, which could rise to £3.75 million, for the 22-year-old was a coup for the Baggies with a number of teams in the running for the stopper's signature.

The news of Carson's arrival couldn't lift his new teammates as the Baggies crashed to a 4-1 loss against FC Koln in their second pre-season fixture. Albion were behind after only 56 seconds with Michal Danek conceding a further three goals inside 38-minutes. Craig Beattie scored a consolation goal in the 76th minute on a dismal afternoon for the visitors. After the defeat, Mowbray admitted his team looked tired after a week of pre-season training.

Despite losing twice during the mini-tour of Holland/Germany, Tony Mowbray insisted the Baggies were on the right track and the journey had been a 'big success'.

Albion travelled to the Pro-Star Stadium for their first pre-season fixture on UK soil with James Morrison and Kim Do-Heon saving Albion's blushes with eye-catching late strikes. A dull first-half saw the visitors coming the closet to open the scoring with Neil Clement hitting a post. However it was Shrewsbury's Grant Holt who broke the deadlock in the 49th minute. The former Forest striker doubled the League Two outfit's advantage in the 65th minute before the Baggies' midfielders stole the show with goals in the 74th and 83rd minutes.

Scott Carson and Marek Cech were included in the 19-man squad to visit Whaddon Road to face Cheltenham with the Slovakian international opening the scoring for the Baggies in the 20th minute. Scott Carson was replaced at half-time by Luke Daniels with the young stopper unable to stop the Robins equalising 11 minutes from time.

Tony Mowbray completed his reshuffle behind the scenes promoting Michael Appleton to reserve team coach after the departure of Craig Shakespeare to Leicester. Appleton would combine his role as coach of the Under-18s as well as the seconds.

Albion's poor run of form continued at Ipswich as the Baggies were on the wrong side of important decisions from referee Mike Thorpe in a 2-1 defeat. Ishmael Miller's thunderbolt opened the scoring five minutes before half-time before Jonathan Greening was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area three minutes later. Tommy Miller made no mistake from the spot to level the scores at half-time. The game looked to be heading for a draw until the final minute when a foul on Carl Hoefkens was overlooked and Kevin Lisbie scored as a result.

Tony Mowbray backed Ishmael Miller to succeed in the Premier League but insisted he must work on his right side as he also laid down the gauntlet to Dean Kiely and Scott Carson to battle it out for the 'keeper's jersey.

The club revealed the new goalkeeper's, home and away kits for the 2008/09 season without a sponsor on the front after discussions with various organisations failed. The new home shirt offered a retro twist on the traditional stripes with a yellow and navy blue shirt chosen for the away top.

Academy stopper Ryan Allsop kept a clean-sheet on his England Under-17 debut on the day that Albion registered their first pre-season victory against Northampton Town. Kim Do-Heon curled home a 20-yard free-kick to give Albion the victory in the 36th minute with Mark Venus announcing after the game he was 'delighted' with the Korea Republic international's progress since his summer switch.

August

Academy keeper Ryan Allsop kept a consecutive clean-sheet for England Under-17s against Norway as young stopper Luke Daniels departed for League Two Shrewsbury on loan with a view to a longer stay.

The Baggies won their second pre-season fixture of the summer with Craig Beattie scoring twice to beat Hereford 2-1. A young side featuring Hodgkiss, Baker, Worrall, Labadie, Dorrans, and Elford-Alliyu initially fell behind to the League One newcomers in the 51st minute before Beattie stole the show with strikes in the 64th minute and then fifteen minutes from time.

A day later a strong Albion side travelled to south Wales to The Liberty Stadium to face Swansea. Donning their new yellow away kit for the first time, the visitors failed to break down the champions of League One with Paul Robinson coming closest to opening the scoring in the 68th minute from a header. Luke Moore, Ishmael Miller and Roman Bednar all missed the match due to illness with Sherjill MacDonald operating as the lone striker.

Tony Mowbray insisted Albion's interest in Abdoulaye Meite as 'dead in the water' after Bolton refused their initial offer for the Ivory Coast international.

Another summer transfer target which slipped through the net, Madjid Bougherra, who claimed he didn't join the club after Jeremy Peace for not being present to finalise the deal was firmly corrected by the chairman claimed his suggestions were 'nonsense'.

The deadline for investment by potential investors passed without any interest with Mowbray selecting a young side to take the short journey to face Walsall. Dean Kiely and Scott Carson both shared a half as they tried to impress Tony Mowbray from the stands but were unable to stop the hosts winning 2-0 at The Bescot Stadium. Goals from Anthony Gerrard and Troy Deeney five minutes from time were enough to see off the Baggies' youngsters with Graeme Dorrans impressing from left-midfield.

Young defender Lee Baker joined Kidderminster Harries on loan for a month after he continued to battle back to full fitness after his serious knee injury with new signing Gianni Zuiverloon making his first appearance for Holland in the Olympics against Nigeria during their 0-0 draw.

The club announced the refurbishment of the Halfords Lane stand had over-run, and as a result, would not be open for Albion's only home pre-season friendly.

Roman Bednar scored his first goal of pre-season as Albion had to come from behind to draw with Real Mallorca at The Hawthorns. With Baggies fans getting their first external view of the new 'West Stand', Cameroon international Pierre Webo opened the scoring in the 26th minute to give the visitors the lead at half-time. Wearing the new home kit for the first time a disappointing first-half was compounded when Neil Clement had to limp out of proceedings in the 13th minute with a knee injury which would rule him out for the rest of the season. Czech striker Bednar equalised in the 51st minute eight minutes before a certain Borja Valero was brought on for the visitors.

After Neil Clement's knee injury Albion made their eighth signing of the summer by finally capturing Abdoulaye Meite from Bolton in a £2 million deal. The strong Ivory Coast international defender signed a three-year contract, plus a year in the club's favour.

Portuguese left-back Tininho was released from his contract after making only one Championship start last season with a view to returning back to his homeland for Leixoes.

Gianni Zuiverloon made his second appearance at the Olympics during Holland's 2-2 draw against the USA before helping his country progress through to the quarter finals after coming on as a 75th minute substitution during their 1-0 victory over Japan.

Albion were drawn away to Hartlepool United in the second round of the League Cup before it was announced Neil Clement would miss the trip to The Emirates with the knee injury picked up against Real Mallorca.

The club's mascots set off for a 92-club tour of the England for charity as Tony Mowbray recalled on his experience as Hibs manager prior to taking his first Premier League game as a top-flight manager.

Scott Carson, Abdoulaye Meite and Marek Cech all made their Albion debuts against Arsenal as Mowbray opted for a 4-5-1 formation as the Baggies and Gunners kicked off the 2008/09 Premier League season. In front of more than 60,000 fans the new campaign didn't start well for the Baggies with Arsenal new-boy, Samir Nasri, scoring after only four minutes. The Baggies battled back well and were unlucky not to snatch a point in the end with Ishmael Miller having a goal ruled out for offside and Paul Robinson seeing a shot cleared off the line as Albion pushed forward.

At the final whistle an upbeat Tony Mowbray hoped to welcome new signings into the Albion squad before the visit of Everton and would welcome back Gianni Zuiverloon after his Olympic dream ended as Holland crashed out to Argentina.

The Baggies were drawn against Highgate United in the Birmingham Senior Cup second round with Tony Mowbray revealing Kim Do-Heon extraordinarily choose to stay with the Baggies squad instead of returning back to Korea after the birth of his newborn son.

Tony Mowbray admitted it was a difficult decision between who to hand the Albion No.1 jersey to and admitted his interest in Real Mallorca midfielder, Borja Valero, for the first time. Just days later Albion smashed their transfer record to bring the former Real Madrid man to The Hawthorns for £4.7 million on a four-year contract, plus a year in the club's favour.

Gianni Zuiverloon made an immediate start on his return from Beijing with Robert Koren also making his first Premier League start of the season after returning from injury against Everton. In front of a sell-out crowd Albion enjoyed the majority of possession before quick fire goals in the second-half from Leon Osman and Yakubu put the visitors two goals to the good. Roman Bednar scored a consolation penalty for the Baggies to open their account for the season in the final minute.

Despite consecutive defeats Mowbray remained confident in his side's ability to succeed in the Premier League and praised Gianni Zuiverloon after an impressive debut.

Youngster David Worrall kicked off his loan spell at Accrington Stanley with a victory after coming on as a sub.

Borja Valero received international clearance to make his debut in English football on a Tuesday night against Hartlepool in the second round of the Carling Cup. Mowbray made five further changes to the starting XI against Everton introducing Luke Moore and Roman Bednar up front; Carl Hoefkens and Marek Cech in defence and Dean Kiely in goal. The introduction of Albion's most expensive signing had little impact as the Baggies had to come back from a goal down after a Leon Barnett mistake to take the tie into extra time, courtesy of a Robert Koren strike three minutes before full-time. Albion were unlucky not to take the lead in the first period of extra-time with Abdoulaye Meite, Craig Beattie and Luke Moore all hitting the woodwork before Pool went on to win 3-1.

Jonathan Greening thanked former Baggies boss, Gary Megson, for bringing him to the club on the eve of Albion's trip to The Reebok Stadium on the same day Paul Robinson signed a new two-year deal, plus a year's option in the club's favour.

Jared Hodgkiss departed for Aberdeen on a five-month loan to gain first-team experience after the arrival of Gianni Zuiverloon. Robert Koren became the second player in two days to sign a contract extension penning a two-year deal, plus a year's option in the club's favour with Tony Mowbray urging his men to 'stand up and be counted' during their trip to Bolton.

Goalkeeper Michal Danek returned to Viktoria Plzen after the club terminated his loan contract - despite having his stay extended by six months only a few weeks before.

Albion agreed a £800,000 fee with Dutch side NEC Nijmegen for 6ft 4in Swedish defender Jonas Olsson. The deal for the 25-year-old could rise by a further £360,000 depending on performance related criteria.

The new defender didn't sign in time for the trip to Bolton with Mowbray making six changes to the side which lost to Hartlepool in the week. Borja Valero was picked for his league debut in midfield with Luke Moore and Roman Bednar dropping down to the bench as Mowbray opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Ishmael Miller playing the lone striker again. The Baggies enjoyed the better of the chances against the Trotters with Ishmael Miller missing two sitters. The Baggies' first point of the season left them 19th in The Premier League.

Tony Mowbray backed misfiring Ishmael Miller to open his Premier League account and paid tribute to his side's resolute attitude at The Reebok Stadium to record their first point of the season.

September

Lee Baker and Luke Daniels extended their loan deals at Kidderminster and Shrewsbury Town with 22-year-old Ryan Donk joining the club on loan until the end of the season with a view to a permanent move. The Dutch Under-21 defender followed Jonas Olsson and Gianni Zuiverloon from Holland joining from AZ Alkmaar on deadline day.

Roman Bednar scored twice for the reserves against Tottenham but still found himself on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline in the opening fixture of the Barclays Premier Reserve League (South).

Despite not bringing in a striker to help Roman Bednar, Luke Moore and Ishmael Miller, Tony Mowbray revealed he was 'more than happy' with his squad but would've been 'totally happy' if a deal could've done to bring a defensive midfielder and striker to the club.

Filipe Teixeria returned to The Hawthorns to continue his rehabilitation from his cruciate ligament injury with light training as Jonas Olsson and Ryan Donk made their first start in Albion colours for the reserves during a 2-2 draw against Leicester. Bartosz Slusarski and youngster Lateef Elford-Alliyu scored for Albion.

Abdoulaye Meite returned to full training after limping off against Bolton with a calf strain 11 days ago in the hope of being fit to face West Ham. Peter Grant admitted the return of Filipe Teixeria would 'feel like a new signing' on his return from injury from Portugal.

Robert Koren was announced captain of his national team, Slovenia, with Tony Mowbray giving a debut to Jonas Olsson in the heart of defence against West Ham. Roman Bednar made his first start in the top flight in place of Ishmael Miller with Carl Hoefkens and Chris Brunt recalled. New Hammers boss, Gianfranco Zola, watched from the stands as James Morrison scored his first of the season heading past Robert Green in the third minute. Mark Noble and Lucas Neill goals put West Ham ahead before Leon Barnett was brought down in the area and Roman Bednar scored the resulting penalty eight minutes before the break. Both sides pushed forward for a winner but it was Albion, and Chris Brunt, who got the winner with the killer strike in the 83rd minute following a counter attack from a West Ham corner. The victory moved Albion into 14th position.

After the victory Tony Mowbray was pleased his side won in style but admitted improvements still had to be made with Scott Carson modestly declaring he 'was just doing his job' after saving Scott Parker's goal-bound effort in stoppage-time during the West Ham win.

Ryan Donk partnered Pele in defence during Albion's comfortable 3-0 victory over Fulham in the reserves clash with Craig Beattie scoring twice and Lateef Elford-Alliyu scoring the third.

Tony Mowbray insisted former Villa pair Luke Moore and Scott Carson had nothing to prove before the long awaited Midlands' derby and urged The Hawthorns faithful to roar the Baggies on to victory.

Despite training for a full two-weeks without any problems, Abdoulaye Meite suffered a calf injury during the warm up against Aston Villa with Leon Barnett stepping in for the Ivory Coast international. The return of Gianni Zuiverloon was the only other change for Tony Mowbray's men in place of Carl Hoefkens with Meite's late departure proving costly for the Baggies. Leon Barnett had a derby nightmare to forget against John Carew first failing to learn from his earlier mistake - when the big Norwegian was granted a free-header which hit the post - minutes before he found the net from an identical position. It went from bad to worse for Barnett who guided a straightforward header into the path of Gabriel Agbonlahor who doubled Villa's lead only two minutes later. James Morrison scored in successive matches to pull one back in the 34th minute after Brad Friedel had spilled a Robert Koren shot. The American went from villain to hero only minutes later though denying Kim Do-Heon with a wonderful save from a header. The defeat left Albion perched in 17th place only out of the relegation zone on goal-difference.

Former centre-half Mowbray admitted his disappointment at the Baggies' 'school-boy defending' against Villa and had more further bad news that both Chris Brunt and Abdoulaye Meite would be ruled out for up to a month with respective hamstring and calf injuries.

James Morrison admitted he had a point to prove on his return to The Riverside Stadium with Filipe Teixeria finally returning to full training and hoping to return to action for the second-string against West Ham.

Craig Beattie's disappointing Hawthorns career continued as he was loaned out to Crystal Palace until October 28th after making just two Premier League appearances.

Neil Clement underwent an operation on his injured right knee which would keep him out of until at least January after suffering a serious knee injury in Albion's final pre-season friendly against Real Mallorca.

Leon Barnett was dropped after his Villa nightmare in favour of debutant Ryan Donk for the trip to Middlesbrough. Mowbray made only one other change to the starting XI with Kim Do-Heon included in the place of injured Chris Brunt. The Korea Republic international's afternoon didn't last long however after being carried off after only a minute at The Riverside Stadium. The afternoon did get better for the Baggies though with Jonas Olsson scoring his first goal in Albion colours to end the club's 56-year wait for a victory on Boro soil. Scott Carson made a number of important saves to keep the home side at bay with Ishmael Miller continuing his poor form in front of goal wasting two late one-on-one chances. The Baggies' first away win of the season moved them up to 10th.

Tony Mowbray hailed his defensive backline after Albion's second clean-sheet of the campaign with Scott Carson admitting Jonas Olsson was a 'rock at the back'. The victory joy though was dampened with news that Kim Do-Heon would miss at least six weeks after injuring his medial knee ligament at The Riverside Stadium.

Sherjill MacDonald or Marek Cech were pencilled in for the left-flank against Fulham as Albion's injury problems mounted. Filipe Teixeria made a return to competitive football for the first time in six-months during the reserves' 4-3 defeat against West Ham. The Portuguese ace got an hour under his belt however it was Freddy Sears who stole the show scoring all four goals for the Hammers.