2008: A Year's Review

Last updated : 05 February 2009 By Iain Bate - Wba-mad Editor

October

Tony Mowbray admitted he was delighted with the recent performances of Gianni Zuiverloon after his summer arrival but warned of tougher tasks ahead for the right-back.

Paul Robinson warned former fans' favourite, Zoltan Gera, that their friendship would be put to one side during his return to The Hawthorns after departing for Fulham only months ago.

Filipe Teixeria hoped to be fit for the visit to Old Trafford with Tony Mowbray making only one change for the Fulham game. For the first time this season the Baggies boss opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Roman Bednar and Ishmael Miller up front. Miller replaced the injured Kim Do-Heon in the starting line-up. It was Bednar who fired Albion to a 1-0 victory and their best ever start to a Premier League season with a 69th minute strike taking the Baggies to the dizzy heights of eighth. Despite the visitors starting the brightest and the returning Zoltan Gera missing a good chance, Albion's new-look backline stood firm to record their third clean-sheet in five games.

Scott Carson's second consecutive shut-out earned him a place in England's 23-man squad to face Kazakhstan and Belarus with Ray Clemence admitting the former Liverpool 'keeper seemed to have found his confidence once again.

A young Albion side knocked Highgate United out of the Birmingham Senior Cup in the second round with goals from Chris Wood, Tom Waghorn and Kayleden Brown enough to see off the Midland Alliance outfit.

Tony Mowbray admitted his interest in Real Mallorca striker, Oscar Trejo, but revealed he wouldn't be his number one target in January. The Baggies boss also praised the impact of Ryan Donk in the absence of Abdoulaye Meite.

Former forward Geoff Horsfield was diagnosed with testicular cancer and officially called time on his professional career. 'The Horse' joined Albion in December 2003 from Wigan and scored 15 times in 73 appearances, including 21 as a substitute.

Despite failing to find a buyer for the club, Jeremy Peace revealed the club announced a record £11.3 million pre-tax profit for the year ending June 30, 2008.

Roman Bednar was urged to continue his impressive performances to stake his international claims with the Czech Republic by Tony Mowbray with the Baggies boss demanding his players 'hit the ground running' at Old Trafford after conceding early in the opening game of the season against Arsenal.

Chris Brunt played 61 minutes for the reserves during the 2-1 loss against Leicester City with David Worrall scoring on his own return from injury. Filipe Teixeria, the player the game was organised for, was ruled out of the trip to Manchester United after picking up a calf injury prior to the Foxes game.

Baggies boss Tony Mowbray celebrated two years in charge at The Hawthorns at Old Trafford making just one change for the Manchester United fixture. Fit again Chris Brunt replaced misfiring Ishmael Miller as Mowbray reverted back to a 4-5-1 formation. Albion held their own against the Premier League and Champions League champions with the teams going in level at half-time. The Baggies' defence was finally breached by the red-sea in the 56th minute with Wayne Rooney scoring United's first and Albion's first goal conceded in 322 minutes of football. The goal opened the flood-gates with Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani all adding to the scoring to end Albion's mini unbeaten run. The heavy defeat left Albion in tenth place.

Tony Mowbray rued his side's 'naive' defending at Old Trafford but insisted confidence was still high in the Baggies camp after Albion's heaviest defeat of the season. Leon Barnett returned from his derby nightmare against Aston Villa with an appearance for the reserves against Stoke City. A late Richard Cresswell double ensured an unhappy return in Albion colours for the 22-year-old defender.

Kim Do-Heon was on track to recover ahead of schedule from his knee injury with Filipe Teixeria finally recovering from his injury nightmare has he stepped up training after his calf strain.

The Baggies boss declared it was 'so far, so good' for Albion after their best ever Premiership start on the eve of Hull City's visit to The Hawthorns. Ishmael Miller was paired up front with Roman Bednar in place of Chris Brunt with Mowbray opting for a 4-4-2 formation against the Tigers. The Baggies enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the first-half with Jonas Olsson and Roman Bednar both hitting the woodwork as the visitor's goal led a charmed life. However three goals in 19 second-half minutes swung the game in Hull's favour as their impressive run continued. The disappointing defeat dropped Albion into 13th place in the Premier League.

In the aftermath Tony Mowbray called for an improvement in both penalty boxes and insisted the goals would start to flow for Ishmael Miller after his goalless streak continued. Jonas Olsson also revealed he'd be having sleepless nights after hitting the crossbar with a header when met with an open goal.

Albion were drawn against Rushall Olympic in the third round of the Birmingham Senior Cup as the first-team prepared for the long trip north to St. James' Park.

Craig Beattie had his loan spell at Crystal Palace extended until the end of December after impressing at Selhurst Park.

Mowbray reverted back to a 4-5-1 formation against struggling Newcastle United with misfiring Ishmael Miller making way for Chris Brunt. In front of 45,801 fans and the TV cameras on a Tuesday night, a disappointing first-half performance resulted in Albion trailing 2-0 at the break after a penalty from the returning Joey Barton and a header by Obafemi Martins. A much improved showing after the break resulted in Ishmael Miller scoring his first goal of the season in the 65th minute after a fine through ball from Robert Koren. The Baggies pressed for an equaliser with Miller again coming the closest drawing a point-blank save from Shay Given in the 73rd minute. However the Geordies held firm with Albion suffering their third straight defeat in a row.

After the defeat Mowbray backed Miller to become an established top-flight striker after opening his account for the season and was buoyed by the return to full training of Filipe Teixeria, Abdoulaye Meite and Leon Barnett - although it was expected they'd all miss the Blackburn fixture.

Shelton Martis' search for first-team football saw him join Doncaster Rovers on a month's loan.

November

Youngster George Thorpe enjoyed a dream debut for England Under-16s after creating his country's winner against Wales after coming off the subs' bench in the 58th minute.

The first day in November saw Blackburn Rovers visit The Hawthorns with Ishmael Miller recalled to the starting XI who faced Newcastle. The visitors took the lead when referee M Jones spotted a pull on Jason Roberts by Ryan Donk in the penalty area - much to the amazement of everybody in the stadium. Benni McCarthy gladly slotted home the spot kick but was then shown his marching orders after being shown two questionable bookings in the 36th minute. Albion pushed for an equaliser but had to wait until Roman Bednar coolly side-footed past Paul Robinson. With the momentum with the Baggies Ishmael Miller continued his scoring form with a scorcher from 20-yards as Albion looked on course for their first win in three matches. However with one minute of normal time remaining, ex-Wolves man, Keith Andrews, hit an unstoppable shot from 25-yards to give Rovers a share of the points. The heartbreaking draw moved Albion into the relegation zone for the first time since September.

Ishmael Miller revealed he 'felt sick' after his superb strike was cancelled out at the death in the most post-match interview with Tony Mowbray left 'bewildered' by some of Mike Jones' decisions and admitted the draw felt like a loss.

Tony Mowbray urged Ryan Donk to stay mentally strong after conceding two penalties in consecutive games with Filipe Teixeria revealing his excitement at the prospect of making his Premier League debut after finally returning to full fitness.

Jeremy Peace pushed through his share consolidation issue at the AGM meeting with James Morrison and Filipe Teixeria both passed fit for the trip to Anfield. Kim Do-Heon was recalled for the first time in six weeks to face Liverpool with Mowbray opting for a 4-5-1 formation. Filipe Teixeria was also included in an Albion squad for the first time in seven months after a serious knee problem. As sure as night follows day, Robbie Keane again scored against Albion with two goals in ten minutes enough to overcome the Baggies' bright start to the game. In truth Albion failed to test the Liverpool goal with only two shots on target throughout the ninety minutes with the main plus point seeing Filipe Teixeria making his long awaited return from injury as a 56th minute substitute. Alvaro Arbeloa compounded Albion's misery with a 93rd minute goal to make it 3-0 as Albion dropped down to bottom of the league for the first time of this season.

Mowbray afterwards was pleased his team were brave enough to take the game to the Reds at Anfield and was unfazed to see his side at the bottom. Despite the defeat Filipe Teixeria couldn't hide his delight at returning to first-team action admitting he was 'happy to be back'.

Although Aruna Dindane's name was again linked with Albion Tony Mowbray refuted claims a deal had been struck prior to the transfer window opening in January.

Luke Moore was picked in the reserves' squad to face his former club, Aston Villa, with the forward scoring his first goal in an Albion shirt during a 2-1 defeat.

Abdoulaye Meite returned to full training prior to Chelsea visiting The Hawthorns with Mowbray out to end their impressive away record and telling his defence to learn from their mistakes the week before at Anfield.

The Baggies boss revealed the Premier League's 'big four' teams were keen admirers of his side's way of playing and hoped some of their fringe players would be loaned out to the club as Mowbray also called for referees to be more 'accountable' for their decisions.

Abdoulaye Meite returned to the starting XI for the first time in 11 weeks to face Chelsea with James Morrison the only other change in place of Ryan Donk and Kim Do-Heon from the side that opened at Anfield. The Baggies were unable to stop a ruthless Chelsea outfit with Jose Bosingwa opening the scoring with a somewhat fortuitous 25-yard effort before Nicolas Anelka scored twice before half-time to give the visitors an unassailable lead. The victory set a new Premier League record of ten straight away wins and left Albion rooted to the bottom of the table.

Scott Carson earned a call-up to the England squad to face Germany in Berlin with James Morrison sent for a scan on his knee injury picked up against the Blues. Robert Koren admitted his relief after playing all of the top four as he looked forward to the Stoke game where points were achievable.

A young Albion side lost 3-2 against Rushall Olympic after extra-time in the Birmingham Senior Cup with Borja Valero claiming he was enjoying the physical battle of Premier League football and had no regrets over his summer move from Real Mallorca.

Scott Carson was the first Albion player to play for England since Steve Hunt 24-years ago as he helped England to a 2-1 victory on German soil. Roman Bednar also made his first international appearance for two years for the Czech Republic.

The club confirmed than an application for an injunction to prevent the proposed share consolidation had been defeated in the High Court with Jonas Olsson claiming 'records are there to be broken' as the Baggies hoped to end a 28-year wait for a victory on Stoke soil.

Chris Brunt and Kim Do-Heon came in for the injured James Morrison and Roman Bednar for the trip to Stoke City. Albion's hoodoo continued in Staffordshire as Mamady Sidbie scored a late winner in a dour game at The Britannia Stadium. The usual defeat against Stoke kept Albion rock-bottom for the third week and extended the run to seven games without a win.

Mowbray bemoaned his players making the wrong decisions as Chris Brunt claimed his team-mates deserved a clean sheet after combating Stoke's physical approach for the majority of the game.

Leon Barnett stepped up his comeback from a knee operation as he was included in the reserve line-up to face Chelsea's second-string. Marek Cech, Luke Moore, Kim Do-Heon, Pele and Dean Kiely all featured with Sherjill MacDonald netting during a 1-0 win.

Tony Mowbray revealed he'd be searching for experienced heads during the January transfer window as Bartosz Slusarski joined Sheffield Wednesday with a view to a permanent deal. Lithuanian international, Mindaugas Kalonas, joined the Baggies on trial.

James Morrison, Jonas Olsson and Filipe Teixeria all won their battle against injury to feature for the Baggies against Wigan Athletic with the later having to settle for a berth on the subs' bench. The positivity Mowbray called for prior to the game was evident as Albion took the game to their hosts. Ishmael Miller scored the club's first goal in 345 minutes in the 47th minute with James Morrison and Chris Brunt seeing opportunities saved by former Albion 'keeper, Chris Kirkland. Albion were made to pay when Paul Robinson headed mistake was pounced upon by Henri Camera who gladly equalised for the Latics. It was to go from bad to worse though when, three minutes from time, Emerson Boyce scored a free header to give Wigan three undeserved points.

Albion were drawn at home against the winners of the Peterborough or Tranmere in the third-round of the FA Cup with Tony Mowbray insisting he wouldn't allow standards to drop as he searched for a formula to end Albion's worse run of the season.

December

Youngsters George Thorpe and Saido Berahino helped England Under-16s claim the Victory Shield for the eight successive season with Jonathan Greening insisting Tony Mowbray's current team were better than the side which stayed up in 2005.

Tony Mowbray backed Paul Robinson to come back stronger from the mistake which lead to Wigan's opening goal at the JJB Stadium and backed his midfielders to start scoring after misfiring in recent weeks.

Geoff Horsfield announced he had been given the all-clear after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer.

Albion were unchanged for the first time in eleven weeks for the visit of Portsmouth as Tony Mowbray searched for a first win in nine games. In front of 24,964 fans at The Hawthorns a weary Pompey outfit were out-played during the first-half with Chris Brunt missing a glorious chance before Jonathan Greening stumbled home his first goal of the season six minutes before the break. With Albion controlling the game Pompey snatched a shock equaliser when Peter Crouch's effort looped off Abdoulaye Meite's shin and over Scott Carson. The afternoon didn't go any better for Albion when Ishmael Miller was carried off on a stretcher after colliding with David James. The draw kept Albion on the bottom with 12 points from 16 games.

After the game Mowbray revealed Ishmael Miller had been sent off for scans on his damaged knee and admitted his side had 'missed the boat' to end their endless streak against an under-strength Portsmouth side.

Albion and Ishmael Miller received a devastating blow with the news he'd miss the remained of the season after damaging his cruciate ligament during the Pompey game. The injury left the Baggies with just Roman Bednar and Luke Moore competing for a starting berth. As a result Craig Beattie had his loan spell cut short at Crystal Palace after scoring five goals in 15 appearances for the Eagles.

Scott Carson praised the partnership of Jonas Olsson and Abdoulaye Meite at the heart of his defence with Tony Mowbray also praising his back four. The Baggies boss hoped the injury to Ishmael Miller would 'galvanise' his troops but outlined a list of attributes he'd be searching for in the January transfer window.

Luke Moore was given his full Barclays Premier League debut against Sunderland replacing the injured Ishmael Miller in attack. Craig Beattie, back from his loan spell, had to settle for a place on the subs' bench in the Black Cats' first home game since the departure of Roy Keane. In arguably Albion's worst performance of the season quick fire Kenwyne Jones goals in 22nd and 24th minute put the Baggies to the sword before Andy Reid headed a third before half-time. Djibril Cisse made it 4-0 two minutes after half-time to equal Albion's worst defeat of the season.

Mowbray insisted his players must 'get back to basics' and admitted the heavy defeat summed up Albion's season. Jonathan Greening admitted harsh words were said in the dressing room after the defeat which continued the Baggies' winless run to ten games.

Jeremy Peace insisted he was aiming to 'evolve and strengthen' during the transfer window but insisted it would only be via loans or funds raised by player sales. The chairman also revealed the door was still open for major investors to buy his stake in the club.

Roman Bednar and Kim Do-Heon were recalled for the visit of Manchester City in place of Chris Brunt and Borja Valero as Albion found themselves bottom for Christmas after Blackburn's victory the day before. After a goalless first-half Luke Moore finally opened his account in Albion colours after joining ten months ago. Felipe Caicedo's first City goal from a fortuitous back-heal seemed to signal the same-old-story for Albion before Roman Bednar's header in the last minute finally ended a ten match streak without a win. The welcome victory moved Albion within a point of Blackburn and four within Premier League safety.

After the full-time whistle Tony Mowbray kept his players on the pitch for a victory huddle as a show of unity and reserved special praise for goalscorers Roman Bednar, Luke Moore and also influential sub Graeme Dorrans for their performances against City.

Luke Moore hoped his first Albion goal would see him get an extended run in the team and declared a goal pledge - if given the opportunity.

Vadis Odjida-Ofoe completed a trial at The Hawthorns however Tony Mowbray had yet to decide whether to offer the 23-year-old Hamburg midfielder a contract.

Albion travelled to Chelsea on Boxing Day on the back of their first victory for nearly three months with Tony Mowbray hoping to frustrate the home side at Stamford Bridge. Craig Beattie made his first full Premier League start up front on his own as Mowbray fielded a weakened side with the Tottenham game in mind. Defensive errors again cost the Baggies with early and late goals in the first-half enough to earn the hosts a 2-0 victory. To make matters worse Abdoulaye Meite limped off in the 27th minute with an injury.

With just three days until the transfer window opened Tony Mowbray revealed his interest in Arsenal youngster Jay Simpson with the 20-year-old revealing to a radio station a deal had already been completed for him to join until the end of the season.

Two days after the defeat at Stamford Bridge struggling Tottenham Hotspur visited The Hawthorns with Marek Cech making his first Premier League start in almost three months with Paul Robinson suspended. Leon Barnett came in for the injured Abdoulaye Meite, Borja Valero in for the sick Robert Koren and Roman Bednar and Luke Moore both started in attack again. In front of a loud and sell-out crowd Bednar again scored with a late header to give Albion the lead before Craig Beattie scored his first goal of the season in injury-time to wrap up consecutive home victories. The win moved Albion to within just two points of safety in the last fixture of an eventful 2008.

In truth, 2008 was a vintage year for Albion fans. Although the year started with defeat at Ipswich the culmination of the 07/08 season saw the Baggies claim their first league title for 88 years and reach their first semi-final in decades. After the jubilation at Loftus Road and the optimism and positivity after the club's first few games back in the Premiership, the majority of Baggies fans were left frustrated as Albion found themselves rooted to the bottom of the league and with a lack of squad depth after summer departures. Home victories over Manchester City and Tottenham offered hope, however we'll have to see if 2009 brings The Great Escape mark II.