In 2002, Albion were in search of their first promotion to the Premier League and what would be their first return to the top flight in 26 years. With ten games to go, automatic promotion seemed to be out of reach, much like this season, as Gary Megson’s Baggies were ten points adrift of their Black Country neighbours, Wolverhampton Wanderers, managed by Dave Jones. Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City were only two points ahead but had three games in hand following an extended cup run, and they were the stand out side in the division.
|Division One Promotion Battle – 26th February 2002|
A little over two weeks later, the situation was a little better for the Baggies. City had taken a grip of the title race winning six consecutive games, including a 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace on 16th March. That was the same day that Albion were winning 3-0 at Sheffield United when the game was abandoned when Neil Warnock’s Blades went down to six players following three red cards and numerous injuries. The Baggies were finally awarded the points for what became know as the Battle of Bramall Lane a few days later, but they were still eight points behind Wolves with seven games left, albeit with a game in hand.
There were signs of fallibility at Molineux, however. They had won seven games in a row themselves through February and early March, but draws at Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City were followed by a 1-0 home defeat to Grimsby Town, managed by former Albion midfielder, Paul Groves, and the Baggies fans were daring to dream.
With 21 points left for the Baggies to play for, just as there are today, the table stood as follows:
|Division One Promotion Battle – 16th March 2002|
I’ll track the progress game by game as the current season draws to a close.