Baggies hoping for a final day miracle

Swansea City v West Bromwich Albion; Stadium, Monday 8th May 2023, 3pm

For only the ninth time in the last fifty years, Albion go into the final game of the season with something riding on the result and, only once in that time, in 1991, have the results not gone the Baggies’ way.

You can read about those dramatic final days of the past below, but if Albion are to make the top six at the end of this campaign, it would possibly rival the Great Escape for drama, albeit not for significance as it would only leave Carlos Corberán’s team as one of four to battle it out for promotion.

The permutations are complex but can be boiled down to the Baggies needing to finish above three of the other four teams that have a chance of claiming one of the remaining two play-off spots. All scenarios need a victory for Albion at Swansea City, but the results to finish above each of the other teams are detailed below:

  • Blackburn Rovers – to finish above a winning Baggies team, Rovers would need to beat Millwall by eleven more goals than Albion beat Swansea, so it is safe to assume that if the Baggies win, they will finish above Jon Dahl Tomasson’s team.
  • Sunderland – the Baggies either need Sunderland to draw or lose their game at Preston; if the Black Cats do win, Albion would need to better that result by four goals.
  • Millwall – Blackburn’s point against Luton Town on Monday means that they can still finish ahead of Millwall with a victory, something that was essential to keep their hopes alive. From Albion’s point of view, a draw or a Blackburn win will be enough assuming they take all three points in south Wales.
  • Coventry City – it is unlikely that Albion will finish above the Sky Blues as it will need City to lose at Middlesbrough and there to be a five goal turnaround, e.g. a 2-0 win for Albion and a 3-0 defeat for City.

The most likely route for the Baggies is a draw or defeat for both Millwall and Sunderland, but if Middlesbrough start banging in the goals against Coventry, that fixture could become interesting.

Albion’s opponents on Monday, Swansea City, were themselves on a late run to the top six until a draw at Hull City last weekend left them with too much to do. Nevertheless, only Sheffield United are above them in the eight-game form table with the Swans having collected 20 points from the last 24 available which has seen them rise from 17th in the table on 18th March to the tenth spot they currently occupy. That run followed a run of just three wins in 22 games dating back to late October when a 2-0 victory in the south Wales derby left them fourth in the table.

In the midst of that run was what was described by Swans boss Russell Martin as a disastrous transfer window when one of their targets was a loan move for Karlan Grant, but their improvement in the last two months has been remarkable and it will not be an easy three points for the Baggies.

Corberán is likely to have few selection decisions to make with the first team largely picking itself in recent weeks. There may be a question mark over whether Taylor Gardner-Hickman will get another chance, but providing everybody is fit, I’m expecting the Spaniard to go with the eleven that started the game against Norwich City on Saturday. None of the substitutes have really done enough to stake a claim for a first team spot and that eleven represents Albion’s best chance of taking the three points they need.

A victory, of course, may not be enough, although as you can read below, final day dramas do tend to go Albion’s way. Whatever the outcome of Monday’s drama, it is important to recognise that the club, on the pitch at least, has come a long way under Carlos Corberán, and all of his public utterances have suggested that he is here for the long term. He has made mistakes, all coaches do, but he is a massive upgrade on what went before, and I would trust him to assemble a squad capable of challenging next season even without a massive input of cash.

That, of course, is for discussion next week, or perhaps next month. For now, we can dream of a miracle and that Albion might just extend their season and maybe we can have another day at Wembley, with the right outcome this time.

Final Day History

When Albion have anything to play for on the final day of the season, they tend to deliver the goods and very rarely have things not gone their way.

The most recent final day drama was the climax to the 2019/20 season – the Baggies didn’t get the win that would have guaranteed promotion with Ebere Eze’s equaliser for QPR making the final score 2-2 but Brentford duly lost to Barnsley and Slaven Bilić’s side stumbled over the line.

Albion weren’t technically safe going into the final day of the 2013/14 season but such was the goal difference deficit (17 goals) between them and Norwich City, the side in 18th spot who were three points behind them, there was little prospect of any drama – in the event, both teams lost on the final day.

In 2008, Albion needed victory at QPR to confirm the Championship title, and they duly produced with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Chris Brunt and Kim Do-Heon. As it was, Stoke City, the only team that could catch them, ended up drawing their final game at home to Leicester City so a point would’ve been enough for the Baggies.

The most dramatic final day was, of course, in 2005 and Albion’s task that day bares a striking resemblance to the one that this season’s team face on Monday. On that occasion, the Baggies were bottom of the table and needed to win, while hoping that none of the three sides above them took all three points. Norwich City were soon out of the running as Fulham thumped them 6-1 in the end, while Southampton were always second best in their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. Albion were 2-0 up early in the second half but were still down at that point with Crystal Palace 2-1 up at Charlton Athletic. With eight minutes left, Jonathan Fortune scored for the Addicks and the Hawthorns, including the visiting Pompey fans, went wild as the result meant that Albion stayed and Saints went down.

Three years earlier, Albion’s first promotion to the Premier League was confirmed on the final day with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace although, like in 2008, a point would have been enough as Wolves could only draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Just a couple of years before that famous promotion back to the big time, Gary Megson had just started his turnaround of the club by rescuing them relegation on the final day of the 1999/2000 season. Albion needed a win over champions Charlton Athletic to ensure their place in Division One and second half strikes from Richard Sneekes and Bob Taylor did the business. As it turned out, Walsall, the team that could have overhauled them, lost at Ipswich Town and dropped back to the third tier.

We have to go back to 1991 for the last time a Baggies side failed to do what was required on the final day. Bobby Gould’s team, who were unbeaten in eight games going into their final game away to Bristol Rovers at Twerton Park in Bath, and needed to match Leicester City’s result to keep their place in Division Two. Despite Rovers being reduced to ten men in the second minute, Albion couldn’t find a goal and went behind with 20 minutes left to a goal by Tony Pounder. Kwame Ampadu managed to notch a late equaliser but Leicester City beat Oxford United 1-0 and the Baggies dropped into the third tier for the first time in their history.

Back in 1981, the Football League were a little less strict on final day fixtures and several clubs, including Albion, still had games to play after the final official fixtures weekend. With Liverpool yet to confirm their European Cup place as they wouldn’t win the trophy until the end of May, the Baggies needed a point from their final fixture away to Leeds United to secure a UEFA Cup spot and a 0-0 draw for Ron Atkinson’s team proved to be enough to secure 4th spot in Division One.

The previous final day drama was another famous day in Albion’s history at Boundary Park in April 1976. With the Baggies needing to secure a top three spot to return to the top flight, Bolton Wanderers, the side in fourth spot, were three points behind John Giles’ side with a game in hand. Bomber Brown’s goal was enough to secure the points for Albion and a top three spot – the Trotters won 4-0 at Charlton that day and also won their game in hand against Bristol Rovers the following Wednesday making Bomber’s goal all important.

Stat Attack

Current Form

Albion D W W L L W
Swansea City D W W W W D

All competitions; most recent game on the right

Last matches

Last meeting

1 Oct 2022 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Livermore, Diangana)
Swansea City 3 (Sorinola, Ntcham, Obafemi)

Last meeting at Swansea City

20 Oct 2021 – League Championship
Swansea City 2 (Piroe, Paterson)
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Grant)

Last win

8 Dec 2019 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 5 (Ajayi, Pereira, Robson-Kanu, Phillips, Edwards)
Swansea City 1 (Surridge)

Last win at Swansea City

28 Nov 2018 – League Championship
Swansea City 1 (McBurnie)
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Dawson, Hegazi)

Albion’s Record against Swansea City

  Overall   Away
  P W D L F A   P W D L F A
League 45 16 9 20 73 68   22 4 4 14 21 40
FA Cup 1 0 0 1 2 3   1 0 0 1 2 3
League Cup 2 1 1 0 2 1   1 0 1 0 0 0
Total 48 17 10 21 77 72   24 4 5 15 23 43

If you cannot see the tables, click here.

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