Mowbray returns with another new club

West Bromwich Albion v Birmingham City; The Hawthorns, Saturday 3rd February 2023, 3pm

Having already returned to the Hawthorns as manager of both Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland, popular former Baggies boss, Tony Mowbray, will be back at the Shrine on Saturday in charge of Birmingham City. He recorded his first win at the Hawthorns as an opposition boss last season when Sunderland ended the Baggies’ 13-match unbeaten home run in April and, while Albion were beaten at the Hawthorns in the FA Cup last weekend, they are still an eight-match undefeated streak in the league that I’m sure Mowbray will be hoping to end.

Having been surprisingly sacked by Sunderland just before Albion’s visit to Wearside in December, Mowbray took the reins at St Andrew’s in January and has so far presided over four matches with Blues. City came back from 2-0 down at home to Swansea City to earn a point in Mowbray’s first game in charge, and this was followed by back-to-back victories, in the FA Cup at home to Hull City and away to Stoke City in the league. Blues lost 3-0 at Leicester City in the FA Cup last weekend and now Mowbray, at the fifth time of asking, finally gets to manage Birmingham City against a team that doesn’t end in City!

The general feeling from observers is that Mowbray has had a positive impact at St Andrew’s with Blues looking more like the play-off challengers they were under John Eustace earlier in the season, and I’m sure they will present a stern test for the Baggies. They have been boosted this week by the signing of midfielder, Alex Pritchard, who has followed his former boss from Sunderland to St Andrew’s. Pritchard had a brief spell on loan at the Hawthorns from Spurs under Tony Pulis, making just three substitute appearances, and also played under current Baggies boss, Carlos Corberán, at Huddersfield Town. The Spaniard is well aware of the qualities of the 30-year-old midfielder who could make his Blues debut at the Hawthorns, not only from their time together in West Yorkshire, but also because he was involved in both of the Black Cats’ goals against the Baggies at the Stadium of Light before Christmas.

Corberán himself has a few more options available to him this week. Daryl Dike has recovered from the minor calf issue that kept him out of the Black Country Derby, while new signings Callum Marshall and Mikey Johnston will both be available for selection. I’d be surprised if any of them start barring injuries to any other attacking players, but I expect them all to be on the bench. I suspect that the starting line up to be changed from last weekend only by the recall of both Alex Palmer and Tom Fellows in place of Josh Griffiths and Nathaniel Chalobah, but Corberán may well choose to mix things up a bit.

Two defeats in Albion’s last three Championship games has seen them drop away from the top four but, with the chasing pack also dropping points, they have hung on to fifth place. That is unlikely to continue unless the Baggies continue their impressive home form in the league and significantly improve their form on the road. Saturday’s match is an opportunity to remind the rest of the division that a home defeat by Premier League opposition is nothing more than a blip – bag three points and they can turn their attentions to another tough away trip to Ipswich.

Looking further ahead, February is a challenging month with Southampton to come to the Hawthorns, along with Cardiff City, and away trips to Plymouth Argyle and Hull City. Eleven or twelve points from the six games would be a decent return and would surely be enough to keep Albion in the top six. And surely the Baggies should be good enough to do that?


Albion are currently enduring their worst ever run of form against Birmingham City having lost four successive encounters with their “friendly” local rivals for the first time in the history of this fixture. Between 1998 and 2001, Albion failed to beat Blues in seven successive games, but there had never been more than three defeats in a row until the defeat at St Andrew’s in October.

The current run follows on from one of the best ever set of results against Birmingham as they had been unbeaten in the nine previous meetings, winning six, which is bettered only by the period between October 1984 and February 1989 when Albion were unbeaten for ten matches with Blues including a run of eight successive victories. That run, of course, included the remarkable statistic from the 1985/86 season when the Baggies won just four league games all season, two of which were against Birmingham City.

Strangely, Ron Saunders took charge of Birmingham City in the first match in October 1985, when goals from Imre Varadi and Carl Valentine secured Albion’s first win of the season, and would take charge at the Hawthorns in the game following the Baggies’ only away win of the season at St Andrew’s the following February. Unsurprisingly, both teams were relegated that season and Albion would complete three successive league doubles over Blues by winning both games in each of the Division Two campaigns in 1986/87 and 1987/88.

Robert Hopkins, the combative midfielder who moved from St Andrew’s to the Hawthorns in October 1986, scored the only goal of the game in Albion’s 1-0 win in Small Heath in March 1988 and followed that up with a brace in Albion’s 4-1 win at the same venue in the October of the same year. He evidently liked playing at St Andrew’s as he returned to City in March 1989.

There are plenty of memorable names who have played for both clubs, not least the great Ray Barlow, who joined Blues from Albion in 1960 albeit only playing a handful of games at St Andrew’s, Bobby Hope, who had three seasons with Blues in the early seventies, and Tony Godden, goalkeeper in the great side of the late seventies who was with City in the late eighties but never played against the Baggies.

Arguably Albion’s best goalkeeper of the 21st century, Ben Foster, was initially at the Hawthorns on loan from Blues before the move was made permanent in the summer of 2012 while another ‘keeper, Alan Miller, had loan spells at both Albion and Blues from Arsenal in the early nineties before moving to the Hawthorns permanently in 1997.

Others to have played for both clubs include current Baggie, Kyle Bartley, who had a short spell on loan at St Andrew’s from Swansea City in 2013/14, and Kevin Phillips, who moved to Blues from the Hawthorns in 2008. Curtis Davies, Geoff Horsfield, Tomasz Kuszczak, Paul Peschisolido, Graham Potter, Nige Quashie, Liam Ridgewell, Paul Robinson, Craig Gardner and Chris Wood are just a selection of the other players to have turned out for both clubs – it’s an extensive list!

Stat Attack

Current Form

Albion W L W W L L
Birmingham City L D D W W L

All competitions; most recent game on the right

Last matches

Last meeting

7 Oct 2023 – League Championship
Birmingham City 3 (Bacuna (pen), Sanderson, Gardner)
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Swift)

Last meeting at the Hawthorns

14 Sep 2022 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Wallace, Thomas-Asante (pen))
Birmingham City 3 (Hogan (3))

Last win

15 Oct 2021 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 1 (Grant)
Birmingham City 0

Albion’s Record against Birmingham City

  Overall   Home
  P W D L F A   P W D L F A
League 125 52 35 38 170 145   62 28 19 15 89 65
FA Cup 9 7 1 1 18 8   2 0 1 1 1 2
League Cup 2 1 1 0 3 1   1 1 0 0 3 1
Other 2 0 2 0 2 2   1 0 1 0 0 0
Total 138 60 39 39 193 156   66 29 21 16 93 68

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