The first match of 2022 provides Albion with the opportunity to complete a first league double of the season as Cardiff City visit the Hawthorns. The Bluebirds were hammered 4-0 on their own patch in October in what was arguably the Baggies’ best performance of the season.
Since then, Valérien Ismaël’s team have struggled to put a run together picking up just 16 points from the subsequent 14 games, while City have picked up only 11 points from the 13 they have played. Mick McCarthy remained in place for a further four games after losing to Albion, but was finally sacked after their losing run reached eight successive games. Steve Morison stepped up from the coaching staff to take charge of the first team and has won three of his nine games in charge most recently at Luton at the end of November. The Bluebirds have played just twice since then having had two games postponed due to COVID, returning to action on Thursday evening after a 19-day break with a 3-0 defeat at leaders, Bournemouth.
2021 has been a difficult year for Albion. Having started the year battling vainly against relegation under a divisive head coach, they end it battling for promotion with a new man at the helm who is proving to be almost as divisive. The defeat at Derby saw renewed calls from many fans for Ismaël to be sacked, but my overall assessment of the situation hasn’t changed since my article from a month ago and I feel that Albion remain in the mix for automatic promotion providing that they can sign a good number nine in January.
With Albion’s midweek fixture against Preston postponed, Ismaël is able to welcome back both players who missed the Derby match due to positive COVID tests, Karlan Grant and Alex Mowatt, while Matt Phillips has also been in training this week having missed four games through injury. Dara O’Shea is also close to fitness but won’t be available for Sunday’s game.
Perhaps the best news of the week was the announcement that Taylor Gardner-Hickman had signed a contract extension on his 20th birthday, committing himself to the club until the summer of 2026. The youngster has been one of the biggest positives of the season, but his lack of game time has been criticised in many quarters. Up to now, Ismaël has picked Darnell Furlong ahead of him when available, but the Frenchman’s strong public reaction to the defeat at Pride Park could signal a change in approach.
TGH and fellow academy product, Tom Fellows, were both introduced in the second half on Monday and impressed their head coach enough to be singled out for praise in his post-match rant. I said in my report that the Frenchman’s outburst could prove to be a pivotal moment of the season, and the first indication of that will be in his team selection on Sunday afternoon. Ismaël will be looking for a reaction on the pitch, of course, and only a victory will be good enough, although even that won’t satiate those who want the Frenchman sacked.
Sunday’s match will be the last before a two week break from league football as the other Albion visit the Hawthorns next weekend for the third round of the FA Cup. By the time league action returns for the Baggies at QPR on 15th January, perhaps there will be a new face to lead the front line.
In the meantime, can I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2022.
The first ever meeting between Albion and Cardiff took place just over a century ago in October 1921 at the Hawthorns and finished 2-2. The Bluebirds had been promoted from Division Two that summer having only been elected to the English Football League the previous season. The 1920s were the Welsh club’s most successful period reaching two FA Cup finals, winning one (in 1927) and finishing in their highest league position of second in the top flight in 1924 only losing the title on goal average to Huddersfield Town after the club’s record goalscorer, Len Davies, missed a penalty in their final game of the season.
That 1923/24 season also saw City record their best ever win at the Hawthorns in October 1923 when the aforementioned Davies scored all four of the visitors’ goals in a 4-2 victory. 84 years later, Dave Jones’ Cardiff side repeated that scoreline in a League Cup Third Round tie in September 2007. Robbie Fowler scored a brace for the visitors, including a penalty, to add to goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Trevor Sinclair. Ishmael Miller grabbed a double for the hosts, also including a penalty.
Vic Buckingham’s “Team of the Century” recorded the Baggies’ best ever win over the Bluebirds. In November 1952, Albion came from a goal down to win 6-1 with Ronnie Allen scoring four before Johnny Nicholls added two of his own late on.
The Welsh club’s years in the lower reaches of the football league (they were outside of the top two divisions from 1986 to 2003) meant that the two clubs didn’t meet for more than a quarter of a century between 1975 and 2003 and their league win at the Hawthorns in 2009 was their first such victory for more than half a century since a 2-1 win in February 1957.
Cardiff have won on two of their last six visits to the Hawthorns which includes that 4-2 win in 2007. They also won 2-0 in a Championship fixture in December 2009 with the other five games all producing six goals. Albion have produced two 4-2 wins of their own, including the most recent fixture in October 2019, and there have been two 3-3 draws. The most recent of those, in March 2014, saw both teams score in stoppage time with the visitors’ very late equaliser the subject of a dispute in the Albion dressing room that saw James Morrison and Saido Berahino apparently come to blows.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
28 Sep 2021 – League Championship
Cardiff City 0
West Brom 4 (Grant, Nelson (o.g.), Mowatt, Phillips)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
5 Oct 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Pereira, Diangana, Austin, Sawyers)
Cardiff City 2 (Ward (2))
Albion’s Record against Cardiff City
If you cannot see the tables, click here.