Opposition view: Keeping goals out is vital to free-scoring Baggies' promotion hopes
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Ahead of Norwich City's trip to The Hawthorns this afternoon, West Brom supporter Kieran Unitt is pleased with the work of manager Darren Moore so far this season.
How do you assess Albion’s season so far?
I think so far it’s probably been as I expected pre-season. We managed to keep the main core of our first team players over the summer and have sufficiently replaced those who left us. There was always going to be a period of transition while we adapted to life in the Championship, but I think we’ve done quite well. Going forward, we can tear anybody apart but our defence has been the biggest problem. Shaky performances and individual errors have cost us at times this season so if anything is going to halt our push for promotion it’ll be our incapability to keep clean sheets.
Darren Moore seems to have done a decent job, do Baggies fans agree?
He has, considering it’s his first job in football management. After the torture we had to endure during the reigns of Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew, the appointment of Moore was a breath of fresh air. He did enough at the end of last season to prove he could make the step up and who knows? Maybe if he was given the chance a couple of weeks before he did, we would still be playing Premier League football. He’s got the team playing an entertaining brand of football, which we haven’t had for a good few years and that’s all us West Brom fans want. More importantly, he’s getting the results we need and long may it continue.
Do you think automatic promotion will be achieved?
My heart says yes, my head says maybe. We have a good team with many Premier League standard players in. We have a tough run of fixtures coming up, starting with Norwich, so we will have a much clearer picture after that. My worry is that we just miss out on the automatic places and make the play-offs because as we see on so many occasions, the teams that finish third usually end up playing Championship football the next year too. Even though a trip to Wembley would be nice and winning the play-off final would be unreal, I don’t know if I can take more play-off heartbreak after losing to Derby in 2007. The Automatic places have to be our target, and I’m sure we will be there or there about come May. Hopefully as champions.
Which players have been key performers so far?
Harvey Barnes has been an absolute revelation. Hopefully Leicester will allow him to see out his loan with us as they do unfortunately have a recall option included in his deal. His ability on the ball is second to none and I’m privileged to be able to watch him on a weekly basis. We haven’t had a midfielder of his ability since Jason Koumas in the early 2000s and he should take that as a huge compliment. Leicester have one hell of a player on their hands and he will definitely be a superstar in the next few years. Dwight Gayle has been as excellent too, but he’s proven at this level so it’s what we expected of him, he’s a prolific goal-scorer. I think the biggest surprise of the season for me has been Gareth Barry. His technical ability is outstanding and when you watch him, he doesn’t look as if he is coming up to his 38th birthday. What an athlete.
Any areas which need strengthening during the transfer window?
We definitely need a creative midfielder. If Barnes gets injured, suspended or recalled by Leicester, we really will struggle for any sort of creativity or link from midfield to attack. Bradley Dack would be a great signing but with the season he’s had with Blackburn, I can’t see them letting him come to us. I can only see him going to a team in the Premier League. We could also do with another striker.
There’s talk of an extended contract for Norwich legend Wes Hoolahan, would you approve?
To be fair, we haven’t really seen much of Hoolahan this season to be able to see the undeniable ability he has. He was a great servant to Norwich and a great player too. I think it would be a sensible option to offer him a deal until the end of the season as he brings plenty of experience to the team and knows the league. But to be quite honest, I don’t see him getting much game time unless its off the bench with 20 minutes left.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich in the top two?
I have to be honest. I expected Norwich to be sitting comfortably around mid-table, pushing towards the play-offs and away from any danger Their ability to score late goals has been remarkable yet frustrating for us as you just always seem to keep out of our reach. Will you be there come May? It’s hard to say as this league is so unpredictable. Norwich will be there or there about, like us. We are both pretty much in the same boat. It’s anybody’s game as far as promotion is concerned. Hopefully the both of us can make the cut, West Brom as champions though, of course.
Any City players who you’ll be wary of?
I think the obvious threat would be Teemu Pukki. His ability to score goals (notably late goals) has stood out for me and I think he will be a huge threat against our Jekyll and Hyde defence. He scored his first Norwich goal against us in the fixture at Carrow Road in August if I believe correct, and has improved throughout the season so I see him being the biggest danger.
And finally, what’s your score prediction?
I can see goals being scored in this match. Especially in the second half where both teams have been lethal this season. I’m going to go for a 3-2 win for West Brom. Gayle x2 and Matt Phillips for us, Pukki x2 for Norwich. Hopefully it will be a great game and I’m looking forward to it. I’d like to wish Norwich good luck for the rest of the season and hopefully Promotion will be the outcome for both teams at the end of the season.