West Bromwich Albion’s last spell in the Premier League ended with a whimper. After an eight-season stay – their longest spell in the top flight since the ‘70s and ‘80s – the Baggies dropped down after finishing bottom of the table in the 2017-18 season.
The previous seven seasons had included some fond memories, with strong showings under managers like Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke, but in the end, West Brom lost their way and after several managerial changes the club were back in the Championship.
After missing out on promotion with a play-off semi-final defeat to Aston Villa last season, West Brom are looking stronger in this campaign. They are top of the Championship table after 18 games with just one defeat to their name and are hot contenders for promotion in the latest English Championship betting odds. Let’s take a look at how they’ve turned around their fortunes.
The right man for the job
After being appointed as manager in the summer, Slaven Bilic has done a fantastic job so far. There was shock among supporters when Darren Morgan was sacked as West Brom boss before the end of last season when the club were in fourth place in the Championship table. James Shan took over as caretaker to oversee the rest of the campaign but it was important that the club found the right man to assume the role on a permanent basis.
So far, Bilic has lived up to the billing. The former West Ham United, Beşiktaş and Croatia manager has brought a winning spirit to The Hawthorns. West Brom are the top scorers in the Championship, and Bilic has created an entertaining brand of football that supporters are able to enjoy, something that had been lacking in recent seasons at the West Midlands club.
It’s worth remembering the brilliant job Bilic did in the 2015-16 season at West Ham. He got the Hammers playing brilliant football in their final year at the Boleyn Ground and led the club to qualification for the Europa League. It’s clear that Bilic has the ability to work wonders at mid-level clubs, and if West Brom can win promotion this season then they’ll be hoping Bilic can work similar magic in the seasons to come.
West Brom have a squad filled with players carrying great experience and know-how. Long-time campaigners like Jake Livermore, Hal Robson-Kanu, Matt Phillips and Kyle Bartley make up the core of the side, and long-time servant James Brunt is still knocking around as well. Having this experience is vital when it comes to challenging for promotion. These are players who are used to playing at a high level and are familiar with the pressures associated with that level of football.
Not only does that experience help West Brom in the Championship, but it means that if they do earn promotion, they will already have a stable foundation to continue their success in the Premier League. Teams can struggle to adapt to the Premier League after winning promotion from the Championship, but there is a sense that West Brom won’t experience such struggles.
This experience is blended with some top-quality young talent within the club’s ranks. Winger Grady Diangana has made a big impact on the pitch, as has attacking midfielder Matheus Pereira, meaning there is a real sense of balance to the team.
There is a long way to go in this Championship season, but West Brom seem to be looking stronger and stronger as the weeks go by. Their supporters will feel the club belongs in the top flight of English football, and if the team continues this great form then a return to the Premier League may well be on the horizon.