In my opinion, Sunday’s performance at Birmingham City was a new low for this group of players. I’m not sure that there was a lack of effort, but the lack of quality on display was staggering. Given that it was the same eleven players who outplayed Fulham less than a fortnight ago, it is difficult to understand how to put it right.
The general consensus is that there needs to be a major overhaul of the squad, and I feel that special attention needs to be given to the character of the players and not just their ability. The current squad have proved that they have ability, but there aren’t enough strong characters in the dressing room to ensure that they perform near to their best on a consistent basis. Too many times, they have been shown as being mentally weak as a group.
Steve Bruce seems to be getting an easier ride from supporters than Valérien Ismaël did. I’m not sure whether that is because Val was just disliked, or if the fans now feel (or have realised) that the players are the problem rather than the tactics. However, I’m not sure that will last if Bruce’s team continue to produce the sort of display we saw at St Andrew’s.
The visit of Scott Parker’s Bournemouth to the Hawthorns on Wednesday evening is the reverse of the opening weekend’s fixture and how different things look now. The two clubs were among the promotion favourites being two of the four clubs with parachute money, and they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw as Baggies fans had their first proper glimpse of Val-ball. Few would have foreseen the disaster that Albion’s campaign has become.
The Cherries have maintained their promotion push and sit comfortably in second place six points clear of third-placed Huddersfield with three games in hand. The Dorset club sit top of the ten-game form table with an impressive 23 points lost just one league game since their home defeat to Hull City in January.
Current form suggests that the visitors should take all three points comfortably, but given what we have seen from this Albion side, I wouldn’t be surprised to see home win.
Semi Ajayi is probably the only player to have come away from St Andrew’s with any credit, and it will be interesting to see what Steve Bruce does with his team selection. His options amongst the senior squad are limited, and there have been calls for him to play the kids for the rest of the season given that play-off hopes are now extinguished. Personally, I’m not sure that would be a good thing for either the club or the youth players themselves. Introducing one or two wouldn’t be a bad thing, but putting the entire U23 side out would be counter-productive.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure what I would do if I was in Bruce’s position, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an unchanged line-up for the sixth game in succession. However, can he really do that having labelled the performance at St Andrew’s as “unacceptable”?
That said, I’m not sure that there is anyone in the senior squad who would make much of a difference. Perhaps Dara O’Shea in place of Furlong, but Furlong’s long throws were one of the few threats the side had against Blues; perhaps Carroll up front but his lack of mobility remains a problem. Molumby, Reach and Zohore (if fit) have failed to make much of an impact so should we be looking at Rico Richards, Tom Fellows or Rayhaan Tulloch? At this stage, what is there to lose in introducing one or two youngsters?
It’s been a while since we’ve had that end of season feeling so early, but that is where we are now as Albion fans. We are all looking to the summer and Steve Bruce’s team selection is interesting only as a pointer to what may happen in the close season, assuming he remains in charge. Hopefully, the game will be a little more entertaining than Sunday, but that is a very low bar!
Albion and Bournemouth met just once before 1987, an FA Cup clash in January 1955 when the Cherries were known as Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic and playing in Division Three (South). That meeting, at Dean Court, was won 1-0 by the visitors (and FA Cup holders) thanks to a goal by Stuart Williams.
The club adopted the name “AFC Bournemouth” in 1971 and their first trip to the Hawthorns was in September 1987 and the Baggies were victorious once again, this time by three goals to nil thanks to a strike from Carlton Palmer and a double from Tony Morley. That was Bournemouth’s first season in the second tier having been promoted under manager, Harry Redknapp, as Third Division Champions.
Albion’s biggest win in this fixture came five years later when both teams found themselves in Division Three. Goals from Gary Robson, Gary Bannister (2) and Paul Williams saw Bobby Gould’s side win 4-0 in January 1992.
The Cherries only win at the Hawthorns to date came in an incident-packed Premier League fixture in December 2015. James McClean was shown a straight red by referee Mike Dean for a challenge on Adam Smith in the first half before Smith himself put the visitors ahead after the break. Gareth McAuley looked to have earned the Baggies a point when he headed home with eleven minutes to go, but a debateable Charlie Daniels penalty with three minutes left won all three points for Eddie Howe’s team. There was still time for Salomón Rondón to join McClean for an early bath when he was shown a red card in stoppage time for head-butting Dan Gosling.
A 2-1 win over the Cherries for Tony Pulis’ team in February 2017 moved them onto the magical 40-point mark after just 26 games, leaving Baggies fans dreaming of a charge for European football. However, as was so common for the Welshman’s teams when securing safety, form then collapsed and Albion earned just five more points in the remaining dozen games and just about scraped a top half finish.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
6 Aug 2021 – League Championship
AFC Bournemouth 2 (Marcondes, Billing)
West Brom 2 (O’Shea, Robinson)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
12 Aug 2017 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Hegazi)
AFC Bournemouth 0
Albion’s Record against AFC Bournemouth
If you cannot see the tables, click here.