You often hear about sporting teams having a rollercoaster of a season and enduring many highs and lows. Well that certainly proved to be the case for West Bromwich Albion in the 2010-2011 season.
The ultimate aim for Albion was to survive and in the end the Baggies avoided relegation comfortably. Any West Brom fan after the season opener at Chelsea will have snatched your hand off if you said to them they would finish 11th in the league come the end of the season.
But Baggies fans can no doubt be proud of what their side achieved last season and under Roy Hodgson who knows how far West Brom can go.
And even though he was sacked in February, Roberto di Matteo played a part in Albion surviving so we cannot forget that.
The Baggies recorded some famous wins last season and fans of West Bromwich Albion will be hoping the club can now consolidate itself as a Premier League club.
Until West Brom went in freefall, di Matteo was doing a fine job and Albion were at one stage fourth. The Baggies had managed to get a point at Old Trafford and beat Arsenal in their own backyard.
Losing 6-0 on the opening day of the season was not how Albion wanted to start the season. West Brom however were playing Chelsea and not many teams will go to Stamford Bridge and beat them.
It was a crushing defeat and it will have been hard to take but it was only one game and plus Albion were up against the reigning Premier League Champions.
Along with Javier Hernandez, Peter Odemwingie was another bargain of the 2010/2011 season and the Nigerian played a huge role in Albion surviving. Odemwingie could not have got his West Brom career off to a better start as he scored the winner against Sunderland on his debut.
From the Sunderland home game up until the away game at Blackpool, things were looking good for the Baggies. Wins against the likes of Fulham, Birmingham City and draws against Spurs, Bolton and Manchester United proved Albion were capable of giving teams a run for their money.
And of course not forgetting West Brom’s famous 3-2 away win at Arsenal. All the pressure was on Arsene Wenger’s side and Albion had nothing to lose going to the Emirates Stadium.
In the first 45, Arsenal did have their chances but so did Albion and had Chris Brunt converted a penalty late in the first half, the Baggies will have gone into the dressing room at half-time one goal to the good.
Heads could so easily have dropped after Brunt missed a first-half penalty. Did that happen? No chance. Peter Odemwingie put Albion in front, Gonzalo Jara added a second and then Jerome Thomas sent the Baggies fans into delirium as he scored the third. 3-0 up and Albion were on course to secure a famous win. Arsenal did score twice but the Gunners failed to deny West Brom a deserved win.
If that result was sweet for Albion fans then there was more to come. Similarly to the Arsenal game at the Emirates, West Brom went to Manchester United with no pressure knowing that United were expected to win comfortably.
2-0 to United at half-time and the game did appear to be over. But as we saw time and time again last season, West Brom never gave up and yet again they were able to get a result after falling behind.
West Brom managed to pull it back to 2-2 and even though the Red Devils were pushing for the winner so were Albion. A draw at Old Trafford was a terrific result and no doubt morale was high after that result.
Taking a turn for the worse
But the result that triggered Albion’s downfall was the away fixture at Blackpool. Pablo Ibanez was controversially sent off in the early stages of the game and then Jara lost his cool and went in two footed on Luke Varney.
Down to nine men and asking West Brom to get a result was always going to be a tall order. In the end West Brom lost 2-1 and this result appeared to have taken the stuffing out of Albion.
West Brom did record victories over Everton and Newcastle after the loss at Blackpool. But with Albion just hovering above the relegation zone in February and results not going Albion’s way, that was enough for Jeremy Peace to decide that a new manager needed to be drafted in.
The Baggies were in freefall but when I heard the Italian had been given ‘gardening leave’ I was literally shell shocked as I’m sure most Albion fans were.
Sacking di Matteo in February after the transfer window closed, I honestly thought Peace made a mistake. But then again, Albion could not have appointed a better successor to di Matteo in Roy Hodgson.
The former Fulham manager did not have the best of times at Liverpool and was inevitably sacked after results were not going in Liverpool’s favour. But West Bromwich Albion immediately offered Hodgson an immediate return to management.
Although I was disappointed to see di Matteo go, I was absolutely delighted with the appointment of Hodgson and believed West Brom would stay up. Had West Ham sacked Avram Grant in January/February and not after the away game at Wigan, the Hammers would probably have survived.
Roy will have been tearing his hair out at the end of the home game against West Ham after the Baggies let a 3-0 lead slip away and West Ham came back to salvage a draw. Straight away Hodgson knew he had a job on his hands and the Albion fans will have been hoping he was the man to turn the club’s fortunes around.
One turning point in West Brom’s season will have been the 1-1 draw against Wolves. With four minutes of injury time added to the 90, Albion were trailing and it looked as if Wolves would take the derby honours.
But up stepped Carlos Vela to spoil the Wolves party and send the Baggies fans barmy. Vela also scored the equaliser in the away game at Stoke and the Mexican did have chances to win that game for the Baggies.
Whether Vela will be at Albion next season does seem unlikely although personally I would like to see him back at The Hawthorns.
Since Hodgson took over, West Brom were only defeated twice by Chelsea and bitter rivals Wolves. Losing to Wolves will have been hard to take for Albion fans but by the time both sides faced each other at Molineux, the Baggies were already guaranteed survival.
Many hoodoos were broken in the 2010/2011 season for the Baggies and no doubt beating Liverpool and Aston Villa will have been sweet victories to saviour for the fans.
Hodgson immediately was able to sort the defence out who were conceding goals left right and centre in. But Roy also made Albion a difficult team to break down with Youssouf Mulumbu and Paul Scharner sitting in front of the back four.
Yes Albion were still letting in goals but they were certainly a more tougher nut to crack under Hodgson. The one thing I was impressed with was the amount of fight and resilience shown by the players throughout the season.
There were so many occasions where Albion came back from losing positions to pick up draws and wins. Newcastle away on the final day of the season was a prime example. 3-0 down and it looked as if the Baggies were on their way to defeat.
But West Brom as they have done so often came back to get a result thanks to a hat-trick from an unlikely source in Somen Tchoyi. The home games against Liverpool and Villa saw Albion trail by one goal and yet the Baggies once again came back from behind and on both occasions won.
Finishing 11th was a fine achievement for the Baggies and I suppose the only disappointment was not finishing in the top half. But any West Brom fan will have taken a safe mid-table finish at the start of the season.
Billy Jones and Gareth McAuley have already joined Albion on free transfers. Both were named as ‘Player of the Season’ for their previous clubs but there may be one or two fans that may question those signings.
Jones and McAuley signed for the Baggies from Championship teams and with Albion trying to strengthen their squad, should they really be signing players from the Championship? Only time will tell whether Jones and McAuley are decent acquisitions for the Baggies.
Peter Odemwingie was a simply a revelation for West Brom last season and without his goals, Albion probably will have been relegated. Keeping hold of Odemwingie will be crucial for West Brom and the sooner he signs a new deal at The Hawthorns the better.
Now is the time for Albion to establish themselves as a Premier League club and under Roy Hodgson, Baggies fans will be optimistic they can have a decent 2011/2012 season.
But media pundits will probably come up with the ‘second season syndrome’ phrase and state that Albion will struggle. It will be a tough 2011/2012 season but last season proved West Brom can cut it in the top-flight and can be a match for anybody on any given day.