WBA-MAD Editor, Iain Bate, gives an in-depth look back on an eventful twelve months for the Baggies.
Former Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson admitted revenge wasn’t on his mind against the club which had dismissed him only a matter of months ago on the eve of Albion’s clash against the Reds at The Hawthorns. As Albion searched for their first win in ten attempts in the Premier League against Liverpool, Simon Cox was the only change from the side which drew with Arsenal. James Morrison was the unlucky man to miss out through injury.
The dangerous Luis Suarez troubled the Albion backline in as little as 23 seconds but his tame chip was easily caught by former Liverpool ‘keeper Scott Carson. The Reds were back in the attack in the second minute when Dirk Kuyt fired over from close range after Scott Carson had saved his initial header. It took Albion 15 minutes to register an attempt on goal when Simon Cox fired straight at Pepe Reina. The Liverpool goalkeeper then did well to keep out Peter Odemwingie and two Chris Brunt efforts before the teams went off for half time.
Albion continued where they had left off and Reina had to be alert to keep in the opening stages of the half when he could only parry Simon Cox’s volley from an acute angle after Chris Brunt had fed the striker. But despite the pressure, Liverpool took the lead when Martin Skrtel headed home Raul Meireles’ corner. The Baggies regrouped and Brunt had a right foot effort saved before Peter Odemwingie was felled in the area by Sotirios Kyrgiakos after a clever turn. Chris Brunt sent Reina the wrong way to level the scores. Both sides went in search of a winner with Odemwingie and Suarez looking dangerous at separate ends of the pitch. It was Odemwingie again who won Albion’s second penalty of the game just two minutes from time when he jinked past the Liverpool backline but was pulled down by Reina. Chris Brunt again held his nerve to smash the ball past the Spanish World Cup winner and give the Baggies a deserved lead. But, with the Hawthorns boinging, the drama was not yet over. Carson saved excellently from Suarez in the final minute before Nicky Shorey headed off the line with just seconds remaining after the Liverpool striker had lobbed the Baggies’ stopper. But Albion held on for a famous win to give Roy Hodgson the sweetest of victories against his old employees.
Hodgson admitted he was “more than satisfied” with the win over the Reds and paid special praise to Peter Odemwingie and goalscorer Chris Brunt. Winger Jerome Thomas later dedicated the win the Hodgson. The victory moved Albion up to 12th in the league and on to 36 points – four clear of the drop zone.
Somen Tchoyi made a return from the bedside of his sick wife to score for the reserves as the second-string drew 1-1 with Newcastle United. The Cameroon international opened the scoring in the 18th minute but the Baggies were unable to hold on as they recorded a fifth straight draw.
Albion No.2 Michael Appleton warned the Baggies to be wary of a backlash from Sunderland after the Black Cats suffered a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester United. Appy also praised the influence of full-backs Nicky Shorey and Steven Reid after their return to the Albion starting XI.
Searching for a record fourth away win of the season and for a seventh unbeaten game in a row, the Baggies were backed by a bumper following of 2,000 fans after the club had provided free travel to Sunderland. Albion were unchanged for the game and started in the fashion they had left off against Liverpool – Paul Scharner and Simon Cox firing efforts towards the Black Cats’ goal. But it was the hosts who took the lead in the 10th minute when Nicky Shorey headed past Scott Carson. Gyan and Turner went close to extend the lead before Peter Odemwingie equalised. The Nigerian flicked home Jonas Olsson’s header in the 29th minute to score his 11th goal of the season. But just two minutes later Sunderland took the lead again when Phil Bardsley blasted a short free kick past Carson from 25 yards.
The Baggies regained their composure after the break and were level in the 54th minute. Youssouf Mulumbu and Peter Odemwingie played a neat one-two on the edge of the area with the midfielder’s shot finding its way into the corner of the net. The goal brought Albion to life and Simon Cox, Chris Brunt and Jonas Olsson all tested home ‘keeper Simon Mignolet into saves. A goal was coming and it duly arrived for the Baggies in the 72nd minute following a fine team move. Paul Scharner won the ball in midfield and, following a number of one-touch passes, Steven Reid fed Odemwingie down the right. The striker pulled the ball back into the path of Scharner who fired home at the near post to send the travelling Baggies fans into raptures. Welbeck saw two late efforts sail wide but Albion hung on to move into the top-ten in the league and on to 39 points.
Roy Hodgson said after the game that he didn’t think it was Albion’s day after Sunderland twice took the lead against the run of play. But the Baggies boss praised the mental strength of his side after they twice came back. Hodgson also saluted the travelling hoards of Albion fans who travelled north to cheer on the Throstles. The Baggies boss admitted the move to The Hawthorns had felt “right” since he agreed to join the club in February.
Youngsters Saido Berahino and George Thorne both featured for England Under-18s in a 1-1 draw against Italy. Berahino grabbed the young Lion’s goal in the 44th minute – his second in as many games for his country. Another youngster, Sam Mantom, was rewarded for his progress after he was awarded a new-and-improved two year professional deal. The midfielder signed with the club until 2013, plus a year in the club’s favour.
Mantom celebrated his new deal when he netted for the reserves during a 3-2 victory at Chelsea. The victory meant Albion’s reserves were unbeaten on the road for the campaign. Kayleden Brown and Adil Nabi scored the others.
Despite the victory at Sunderland, Roy Hodgson made one change to his starting XI as champions Chelsea visited The Hawthorns. The Baggies were playing with confidence as James Morrison and Peter Odemwingie had efforts blocked before Youssouf Mulumbu fired over as Albion pressed. It was the hosts who opened the scoring when Jerome Thomas fed Peter Odemwingie with the hot-shot dinking the ball over Petr Cech. But the lead lasted only a matter of minutes. Nicky Shorey inadvertently diverted the ball back across goal leaving Didier Drogba with a simple equaliser. Chelsea then took the lead in the 26th minute when Carson parried Drogba’s long-range effort back into play and allowed Salmon Kalou to give the visitors the advantage from the rebound. The Albion goalkeeper made somewhat amends when he tipped over Frank Lampard’s free kick. But Lampard did find the net seconds before half time when he converted Florent Malouda’s cross.
The visitors controlled the game after the break with their two-goal cushion. They almost extended their advantage when Kalou’s effort wrong-footed Carson after a deflection off Reid but cannoned back off the bar. Shorey blocked Lampard’s rebound off the line. The game fizzled out with Brunt heading into Cech’s arms following Carlos Vela’s centre. Albion’s first defeat in eight games saw them drop a place to 11th in the Premier League – still six points clear of 18th place Blackpool.
Roy Hodgson admitted the Baggies gave themselves a mountain to climb after gifting Chelsea their first two goals following defensive mistakes. Jonas Olsson admitted standards had dropped in Albion’s backline against Chelsea, as Roy Hodgson called for a response when the Baggies travelled next to Spurs.
Albion’s reserve campaign ended in disappointment as the second-XI lost 2-0 in controversial fashion to neighbours Aston Villa. Gary Gardiner scored the first from the spot after Paul Downing was adjudged to have handled in the area before Graham Burke scored a second seven minutes from time.
New No.2 Michael Appleton revealed he was revelling in his position as Roy Hodgson’s assistant. Appy also praised the input of Peter Odemwingie after his record-breaking 12th strike of the season – the most any Albion player had scored in one Premier League campaign.
Youssouf Mulumbu beat Jonas Olsson and Chris Brunt to scoop the WBA Disabled Supporters Club Player of the Season Award.
Graham Dorrans was spared an ankle operation after suffering a setback in training. The midfielder had already been sidelined for seven weeks but was told by a specialist he would not feature again for the remainder of the season. Roy Hodgson backed the Scot to come back mentally stronger from the injury.
In front of 36,160 fans at White Hart Lane, Carlos Vela made only his second start in an Albion shirt against Tottenham Hotspur. Albion started brightly and had their first effort inside the first 30 seconds when Jerome Thomas fired wide. The Baggies continued to attack and opened the scoring inside five minutes when Peter Odemwingie out-muscled Michael Dawson and curled the ball past Heurelho Gomes. Gallas then missed a great opportunity to equalise when he headed over unmarked from six yards. But Spurs were level in the 27th minute when Roman Pavlyuchenko beat Chris Brunt on the edge of the area and fired in off the post. Spurs pressed for a goal to take the lead but Albion held strong until half time.
It was the Baggies who almost snatched the lead after the break when Nicky Shorey’s cross was headed back towards goal by Odemwingie who brought an excellent finger-tipped save from Gomes. But Albion’s nemesis Jermain Defoe again scored against the Throstles when he was allowed to run with the ball and fire past Carson from 20 yards. Albion went in search of a winner and should’ve been awarded a penalty when Dawson blocked James Morrison’s goal-bound volley with his arm. Chris Brunt then fired inches wide. Roy Hodgson threw on Simon Cox in search of a goal and the forward responded with his first strike of the season in fantastic fashion. The striker controlled the ball and curled a wonderful effort into the top corner from 20 yards with nine minutes remaining. Albion thought they had the game won in stoppage time but Odemwingie’s drive went agonisingly wide after beating Gomes.
The draw saw Albion drop a place to 12th but, more importantly, move on to the magical 40-point mark. Roy Hodgson revealed his delight at the “precious point” at White Hart Lane and told of his delight to see Simon Cox score his first top-flight goal. Chris Brunt also thanked Albion’s defence for providing the foundation which saw Albion again comeback to earn a point.
After his surprise recall and emergence back in Albion’s backline, Abdoulaye Meite hoped he had done enough to trigger the club’s option to extend his contract for a further year – only months after he almost left the club in January.
Albion’s youngsters played out a thrilling 5-5 draw with Crewe after throwing away a 3-0 advantage.
Roy Hodgson admitted Gonzalo Jara had given him food for thought after impressing against Gareth Bale during Albion’s 2-2 draw with Spurs. Jara was in contention to face rivals Aston Villa after Steven Reid, alongside Chris Brunt and Jerome Thomas, were ruled out with injury.
In the last day in April, Aston Villa visited The Hawthorns on a sunny day in the Black Country. Albion were forced into three changes with Jara, Morrison and Cox recalled in place of Reid, Brunt and Thomas. The Baggies were searching for their first victory over in 26 years but the hoodoo against the Villains looked to continue when Abdoulaye Meite turned the ball past Scott Carson in just the fourth minute. Villa were on top and it took Albion until the 19th minute to register an effort on goal. Youssouf Mulumbu brought the best out of Brad Friedel with a 25-yard curling effort that the American did well to turn around the post. Vela then wasted a chance to equalise when he tried to chip the on-rushing Friedel. Downing was threatening down Villa’s right and came close to extending the lead in the 25th minute when he fired into the side-netting after beating Nicky Shorey.
The Baggies were denied a penalty after the break when Carlos Vela was blocked off by Luke Young but appeals were waved away by Phil Dowd. But the Baggies were level on the hour mark. Jonas Olsson battled well after James Morrison’s free kick and the ball fell kindly for Peter Odemwingie who poked home the ball much to the delight of the Birmingham Road End. But the ground fell silent only moments later when Paul Scharner was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Stiliyan Petrov. Temporary Villa boss Gary McAllister then changed the game in Albion’s favour when he replaced the impressive Nigel Reo-Coker with the ageing Robert Pires. After Meite had almost scored his second own-goal of the game, Downing came close to give the away side the lead when his shot from the edge of the area flashed wide. But, despite being down to ten men, it was Albion who took the lead. Simon Cox controlled a long ball forward. The forward turned and played in the on-rushing Youssouf Mulumbu who turned Luke Young and fired over Brad Friedel to send The Hawthorns into ecstasy. Despite four minutes of injury time feeling like a lifetime, Albion hung on to record a famous victory and end two decades of hurt.
The victory moved Albion two places above Aston Villa into 11th and on to 43 points. A beaming Roy Hodgson admitted his players had made his weekend and praised them for exceeding his expectations when joining the club. After being the first boss to beat Villa in more than a quarter of a century, Roy Hodgson declared that the Baggies were safely in the Premier League for another season.
The proud Albion boss refused to take full credit for guiding the Baggies to safety and pointed towards the work Roberto Di Matteo had done in the early part of the season after he guided Albion to their best ever start to a Premier League season.
On the back of victory against Aston Villa, stand-in skipper Jonas Olsson claimed it was the perfect time to visit Wolves for the Black Country derby. The Swede also set his sights on a top-half finish after Albion’s revival under Roy Hodgson.
After trouble had marred the earlier fixture between Albion and Wolves, both clubs issued a joint statement asking for calm. But Assistant Manager Michael Appleton insisted the Baggies would pull no punches in the fixture. Roy Hodgson also insisted he was not in the best of moods ahead of the fixture as he maintained his focus on another three points after guaranteeing Albion’s place in the Premier League the weekend before.
Hodgson made two changes for the trip to Wolves with Somen Tchoyi coming in for his first start under the head coach and James Morrison replacing the suspended Paul Scharner. But in a game Wolves needed to win to secure a chance of keeping their own Premier League status, a lack of height at set pieces proved to be Albion’s downfall. The Baggies started the game positively and had the first effort on goal when Jerome Thomas tested Wayne Hennessey from 15 yards. Tchoyi was next to test the ‘keeper as Albion broke from a corner but the forward’s curling effort was again easily stopped. Scott Carson did well to keep out Jamie O’Hara’s free kick but could do nothing about the resulting corner. Guedioura chested down unmarked to Fletcher who blasted home from close range to open the scoring. Roles were reversed in the 28th minute when Fletcher headed Hunt’s corner back across goal for the unmarked Guedioura to sweep home Wanderers’ second. It was almost three when Fletcher headed O’Hara’s centre wide from six yards with Albion struggling with the home aerial threat. Albion tried to regroup with Thomas trying his luck from long range. The Baggies then had their best chance of the half when Odemwingie jinked past two Wolves defenders but his goal-bound effort was tipped wide.
Less than two minutes into the second half it was game over when Abdoulaye Meite tripped over his feet and allowed Steven Fletcher to slot past Scott Carson to make it 3-0. The mistake effectively ended Meite’s Albion career and any hopes he had of the club extending his contract. The Baggies did find a goal in the 55th minute when Jerome Thomas was felled in the area and Peter Odemwingie scored his 15th goal of the season from the spot. The goal brought Albion to life and Simon Cox forced Hennessey into a fantastic one-handed save from close range as Wolves started to panic despite their two goal advantage. Jerome Thomas then smashed the ball against the post after rounding the goalkeeper with Wolves on the ropes. Tchoyi then went a whisker away from getting Albion’s second when his header flew inches wide. But Wolves held on to earn three valuable points.
Roy Hodgson chose to take the positives out of Albion’s second half performance – bar the first few minutes – when the Baggies dominated and, on another day, may have taken all three points. The head coach also rued the absence of Steven Reid, Chris Brunt and Paul Scharner and the lack of height the Baggies had with the trio missing. Jonas Olsson insisted Albion had lost the battle but won the war at Molineux and backed Abdoulaye Meite to bounce back after errors against Aston Villa and Wolves had led to goals conceded.
Albion decided not to offer young goalkeeper Ryan Allsop a professional contract and the youngster joined Championship outfit Milwall.
The Baggies announced a 12-day tour of the USA in preparation of the 2011/2012 season. Albion would be based in Santa Barbara, California, for nine days before moving to Portland, Oregon. During that time, games had been arranged against San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers.
Roy Hodgson refused to rule out offers for former goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and Ipswich defender Gareth McAuley as the head coach looked to boost his squad ahead of the following season. Hodgson insisted he was searching for players who were reliable, who wanted to play for the club, and who understood it would not always be rosy in Albion’s garden.
For Albion’s last home game of the season, Hodgson made four changes to the side which lost to Wolves as Everton visited The Hawthorns. Gabriel Tamas made his first start under Hodgson in place of the benched Abdoulaye Meite. Steven Reid and Chris Brunt returned from injury, as did Paul Scharner from suspension. The switch worked as the Baggies started positively. After Peter Odemwingie had hit the side-netting, Youssouf Mulumbu surged forward to net his seventh goal of the season in the 10th minute. Odemwingie did well to close down Distin and pull the ball back for the midfielder to slot home from ten yards. But Albion had Scott Carson to thank for maintaining the lead after an excellent save from Victor Anichebe. Howard then had to be on his toes to keep out Chris Brunt’s free kick before Jerome Thomas’ mazy run saw Tony Hibbert clear his effort off the line.
Both teams pressed for another goal with Baines and Osman coming close before Simon Cox missed Odemwingie’s cross by the smallest of margins. Everton brought on substitute Diniyar Bilyaletdinov in the 72nd minute as the Toffees went in search of an equaliser. The Russian almost scored with his first touch moments after coming on. But the winger was to be shown a straight red card moments later when he was adjudged to have committed a two-footed tackle on James Morrison. With the visitors down to ten men, Albion controlled the game and completed a clean-sheet for the first time in 35 games.
Roy Hodgson’s fifth win in charge moved Albion up to tenth in the Premier League and on to 46 points. Hodgson was delighted to finally achieve an “elusive” clean sheet and thanked the fans for the support they had shown him and the team since his arrival. The Baggies boss led a ‘lap of appreciation’ after the victory to mark the Baggies’ final home game of the season and after avoiding relegation when the drop was a real possibility.
A day after the Everton victory, the club held a Gala Dinner at the ICC in Birmingham city centre. Attended by the board of directors, backroom staff, players and fans alike, Chairman Jeremy Peace revealed new stadium plans which would see The Hawthorns expand to a 30,000 stadia within the next three years – regardless of what division the Baggies were in. At the dinner, Youssouf Mulumbu won the Player of the Season and the Player’s Player of the Season. James Hurst won the Young Player of the Year; Peter Odemwingie received the Top Goalscorer Prize and Simon Cox was awarded the Goal of the Season for his strike against Tottenham Hotspur. ‘Blind Dave’ Healy was presented with the Contribution to the Community accolade with the late Steve Dye voted the Supporter of the Season after battling against cancer whilst following the Throstles home and away.
Ahead of Albion’s final game of the season, Michael Appleton claimed the coaching staff wanted to see the Baggies finish with a floury. Travelling Baggies fans also paid tribute to club legend Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown by wearing masks with the former midfielder’s face on to the trip up north to Newcastle.
Graham Dorrans gave Albion a boost ahead of the trip when he returned to full training after an ankle injury had cut short his season. But leading goalscorer Peter Odemwingie and Gabriel Tamas were ruled out with injury. Both players were given the remainder of the season off.
With Albion battling to finish as the top team in the Midlands, Roy Hodgson predicted the Baggies needed at least a point to finish regional top-dogs for the first time in 32 years. Hodgson also revealed the club were keeping their options open on Pablo Ibanez as they moved a step closer to signing Gareth McAuley.
Abdoulaye Meite and Marc-Antonie Fortune were both recalled for the long trip to face Newcastle United with Somen Tchoyi and James Morrison also recalled as part of four changes. In front of more than 50,000 supporters, the Baggies played out of the one the games of the season as they battled back from three goals down to snatch a dramatic point. It was Fortune who threatened first when his effort was cleared off the line by Steven Taylor when the striker should’ve scored after being set up by strike partner Tchoyi in the area. But Albion’s ability to deal with set pieces again was their Achilles heel in the 16th minute. Steven Taylor swept home from close range after Brunt had failed to clear. The Baggies were lacking the presence of striker Peter Odemwingie up front and Newcastle almost doubled their advantage when Ameobi had his effort cleared off the line by Meite after rounding Carson. After an excellent save from Guthrie, Carson went from hero to villain as he let Lovenkrands volley squirm through his hands and over the line.
Hodgson replaced Pablo Ibanez for Abdoulaye Meite after the break. But the switch didn’t help the Baggies as they went three behind seconds after the break. Jonas Olsson scored a comical own goal with no attacker around him. It was the introduction of teenager George Thorne that swung the game back in Albion’s favour on the hour mark. Tchoyi pulled a goal back two minutes later when he latched on to Steven Reid’s long ball to make it 3-1. The Cameroon international then made it 3-2 in the 72nd minute when he controlled Reid’s cross, held off Coloccini and fired into the roof of the net. Albion were not to be denied a third and Tchoyi completed his hattrick in the final minute. Ishmael Miller found Jonas Olsson down the left. The centre-back sent over a fantastic left foot cross for the forward to head home his fourth goal of the season against Newcastle. Amazingly, Albion could’ve won when Reid headed over in the final minute of added-on time.
The comeback saw Albion finish in 11th place in the Premier League and end on 47 well deserved points.
Somen Tchoyi revealed his pride at scoring his first senior hattrick at St James Park as George Thorne was praised by Roy Hodgson for his influence in the comeback against the Magpies.
Gareth McAuley officially joined the club on a Bosman Transfer from Ipswich Town. The 31-year-old signed a three-year contract at The Hawthorns. The Northern Ireland international said he was “excited” at the opportunity of playing top-flight football for the first time.
Peter Odemwingie beat off competition from Yaye Toure, Alex Song and Chris Samba to win the Premier League’s African Player of the Season.
Scott Carson continued his mini-revival at The Hawthorns by being called up to the England to face Switzerland at Wembley.
The club ended its association with Umbro and signed a kit deal with German giants Adidas.
Free transfers were given to Abdoulaye Meite, Gianni Zuiverloon, Giles Barnes and Marcus Haber. The club did, however, surprisingly extend the contracts of Marek Cech and striker Roman Bednar for a further year.
Albion set up pre-season friendlies to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City and to Whaddon Road to face Cheltenham Town. A trip to Southampton was also arranged as Roy Hodgson planned ahead to the 2011/12 season.
Youngsters James Hurst, George Thorne and Saido Berahino were all selected for England in the European Under-19 Championship Elite Qualifying Round in Switzerland.
After losing just two of the 12 games he had managed in charge of the Baggies, Roy Hodgson called for perspective in the coming season after guiding the Throstles to their best ever Premier League position.
James Hurst and George Thorne helped England Under-19s get off to a winning start in Switzerland. The young lions beat Montenegro 1-0 after Harry Kane’s goal.
Graham Dorrans sacrificed a summer holiday in favour of returning to training early in an attempt to regain his fitness after an ankle injury.
George Thorne scored a last minute winner as England beat hosts Switzerland in a 3-2 thriller. The promising midfielder also set up his country’s second goal with a cross for Liverpool’s Michael Ngoo.
The club honoured the services of fans’ favourite Darren ‘Big Dave’ Moore by naming a brand new matchday suite in the West Stand in his name. Moore made more than 100 appearances for the Baggies in a five year spell between 2001 and 2006.
After the signing had been revealed prematurely on Albion’s digital ‘app’, the club announced the signing of Preston defender Billy Jones on a Bosman. The 24-year-old signed a three-year contract at The Hawthorns.
After finishing the season in style and receiving his first international call up, Simon Cox thanked the influence of Roy Hodgson in improving his game over only a matter of months.
Michael Appleton revealed the coaching staff were considering playing Somen Tchoyi as a striker next season after his hattrick at Newcastle. Roberto Di Matteo and his backroom team had toyed with the idea but wanted to see the unpredictable forward in action higher up the pitch in a competitive match.
Albion were given the most difficult possibly start to the 2011/12 season after the fixture computer picked the Baggies to face Manchester United first up at The Hawthorns, followed by a trip to Chelsea. Bogey side Stoke were next at The Hawthorns followed by away trips to newly promoted Norwich and Swansea. Wolves would travel to The Hawthorns in the first Black Country derby with the return fixture pencilled in for mid-February. The Baggies would finish the season at home to Arsenal.
In now customary fashion, Albion announced their sole home pre-season friendly against Italian outfit Parma. The game would be the Baggies’ final 90-minutes before the start of the Premier League season. A third fixture against Ventura County Fusion was also arranged during Albion’s tour of the USA.
Dan Ashworth insisted that striker Peter Odemwingie was not for sale after newspaper reports linked the striker with a move to Arsenal. Ashworth insisted it was Albion’s aim to increase the quality of the squad – not weaken it.
The club officially ended its sponsorship with Homeserve and quickly entered into another deal with online gambling outfit Bodog for the next two seasons. The deal was the largest in the club’s history and reportedly in the region of a million pounds.
George Thorne was withdrawn from England’s Under-20 World Cup squad in Colombia at the request of Roy Hodgson. The Baggies boss wanted to get a closer look at the midfielder in pre-season training.
Read about how Roy Hodgson moulded his new-look Albion squad ahead of the 2011/12 season and how the Baggies started the new season in the next instalment of WBA-MAD’s 2011 review.
What was your favourite month of 2011? Have your say here at Baggies Banter.