Fight like Lions, Look like idiots

Di Matteo Sacked

We tried to tell them about Di Matteo. We tried to tell them that when things are going well Roberto is great, but when shit hits the fan he is unable to turn things around. We tried to tell them about his hands off approach to training and match preparation. But we are just “bitter baggies” after all. Just like we were when we said they were welcome to take agent Lescott.

I must admit I haven’t watched any of Villa’s games this season, I have just seen the results and have heard about them repeatedly conceding in the last few minutes of games. It is good to see the Villa fans getting a hard dose of reality once again, as all we were hearing all summer was about how much they had spent and how they were easily going to get one of the automatic promotion spots.

Tony Xia – gob on a stick

On one hand I find Tony Xia’s honesty on twitter and his communication with the fans to be quite refreshing. I just can’t help thinking (and hoping) his gobby-ness is going to come back and bite him on the arse.

You can’t promise Champions League football within the next 5 years and not expect serious questions and concerns from the fans when things are going wrong. I can also foresee him possibly saying something about a match official or an opposition player and getting pulled up by the Football League at some point in the future.

Who’s next?

Steve Clarke is now caretaker manager until a replacement can be found. I am not too sure how that will pan out but if Clarke can get some decent results he could be in with a shout of the permanent job.

Otherwise, Tony Mowbray is now out of work if they wish to keep the ex-Albion theme going that is working so well for them (LOL). The bookies favourite at the moment is Steve Bruce. Despite him being very experienced and successful at that level I’m sure the “McLeish Out” brigade may have something to say about another ex-Blues manager.

On their forums they are as deluded as ever. Bielsa, Villas-Boas and Hiddink are amongst the names they are seriously suggesting for their new manager. (You know, because they won a cup back in 340BC – and they are the biggest club ever since time began – and any manager in the world would be privileged to have such a coveted role.)

 

All square at the SoL

Chadli is what we’ve been waiting for

I haven’t got much to complain about regarding our game at Sunderland. Nacer Chadli has transformed the way we attack and we looked very dangerous going forward. Our main problem was putting the chances away. There were a lot of wasteful final balls, without which we would have won comfortably, in my opinion.

During the first half it amusingly looked like Albion v Albion. Sunderland just didn’t want the ball and were happy to sit back and for us to play in front of them. It was good to see that despite this we looked to try and play on the front foot and take the game to them.

Nacer Chadli is what we have been missing for quite a while; a quality number 10 who can provide that link between the midfield and attack. Based on his stats so far this season for us compared to his stats last season, it appears that the way Albion setup is very much suited to Chadli’s style. He has already become a fan favourite and long may his excellent form continue.

Attendance

Everyone probably heard that we only took 700-750 supporters to this game. We did back the team throughout and there was even a rendition of “Tony Pulis’ Barmy Army” during the second half. Where away fans are based up in the gods at The Stadium of Light probably meant our support didn’t appear too loud to the rest of the stadium, but at least we tried.

Pulis’ post match comments praising the home fans has been interpreted by some as a dig at our own fans. I didn’t think Sunderland fans were that impressive. They appeared to be going through the motions until later in the game where a couple of huge roars went up when they realised they had a chance to get a result. However I would like Pulis to acknowledge the effort from our own fans more often. He may not care about empty seats, but he should care about showing appreciation to the ones who are there week in, week out.

Fans just didn’t fancy a 4 hour journey to Sunderland and back again when they didn’t know which Albion would turn up. I thought the game was very entertaining and we had some great spells of possession and slick passing in the first half. Hopefully if this kind of performance becomes the norm we will see fans coming back and making the effort for the longer distance away games.

Substitutions

The only thing I have got to moan about really is the timing and choice of substitutions. What exactly are Morrison and Robson-Kanu going to achieve when brought on in injury time?

I wish Pulis would be a bit more proactive in this area, as he always appears to be hesitant to change anything even when we can see that the pressure is building against us and we begin sitting back. Several times I have noticed he has had substitutes ready on the touchline and then we have conceded while he has hesitated.

As I say this is a small gripe in the grand scheme of things and I am very pleased with the overall performance against Sunderland.

Big Sam and other Telegraph revelations

Entrapment v Public Interest

The definition of ‘entrapment journalism’ is creating a situation “which draws someone into misconduct which would not have happened but for the journalist”. Journalists don’t go around trying to sting every high profile person, only those they know are susceptible to their advances. For me, no one forced Allardyce or his representatives to attend those meetings, or to start advising on how to bend rules, or try and make an extra £400k. If it had happened to be people who weren’t journalists proposing a similar scheme to Allardyce, he would have still said and done the same things. The fact they were journalists doing covert filming is irrelevant, in my opinion.

The whole Telegraph series of revelations is very much in the public interest. Corruption has gone on far too long in this game. Fans want to know why agent fees and player wages are ever increasing, but the cost of following our team is too. The fact the football agent industry is no longer properly regulated means anyone can pay a fee and start harvesting money from our game.

It seems as though this revelation came near the end of the Telegraph’s 10 month long investigation into corruption in English football. It isn’t like their entire mission in all of this was to bring down the England manager. I think they got a massive bonus when Sam agreed to attend these meetings.

Bye Bye, Big Sam

I have always quite liked Allardyce. Being Dudley born like myself, I was quite proud that someone from these parts could turn out to be so successful in football. Although rumour has it that he is a Dingle by heart, at one point I wouldn’t have minded him becoming Albion manager. I was really proud that a Black Country Mon had become England manager.

Now, I feel embarassed for him to be honest. When managers get sacked, the issues are usually discussed behind closed doors. Allardyce has been shown to be naive, greedy and quite stupid in front of the whole country and footballing world. He says he will never quit football but surely he needs to stay out of the public eye until January, at least.

His LMA position is also now in jeopardy, and he is also facing a possible disciplinary process from the FA. All for the sake of £400k.

On the side dealings now appear to be the norm

Last night the Telegraph continued with their next round of stings. One thing that is becoming obvious from managers’ comments is that (as we all knew) side dealings have become the norm in this game. The majority of these managers can’t see that they have done anything wrong, as backhanders have become the usual practice in the top leagues of our game.

The reason us as fans are so annoyed with all of this is the high costs for us normal working class people to follow the team we love. We are shelling out hundreds or thousands of pounds out each season to line managers’ and agents’ pockets.

Who’s next?

I obviously need to be very careful what I say here as it is all speculation at this moment in time. I am expecting to see a certain owner of a financially savvy dog being exposed. Also, based on things Dave Kitson has previously said, possibly a certain tracksuit clad individual whose transfers and utilisation of his squad don’t make sense a lot of the time.

WHAM!

Pulling results out of the bag

Todays’s game against West Ham came as a surprise for most, but one of the reasons Pulis is still in management after all these years is the ability to pull results out of the bag when on a bad run. You will never lose several games on the bounce under Pulis.

The problem is – this is exactly the point the “anti Pulis” contingent have been trying to make. These footballers and this squad are not as crap as TP would make everyone believe. His excuse for his usual awful, defensive style is that “this is the hardest job he’s had”. He has managed to brainwash the media into thinking this, but we can see that is simply not true. We have seen we can play. We know we can play. That’s why it annoys us so much to see us sitting back against the likes of Northampton and Sunderland.

Another ploy TP uses is always bigging up the opposition, their players and how much they have spent in his pre and post match press conferences. This adds to the illusion that Pulis is doing such a good job at tiny, penniless, unambitious West Brom.

We always seem to pull a good performance out if the bag whenever Pulis is feeling the pressure, as well as when playing one of his former sides like Palace. This to me says our restrictive play is totally down to him. If he can go for it in these games why can’t we go for it a bit more often? We aren’t asking to play like Barcelona, just for Pulis to be reasonable against teams we are perfectly capable of beating.

An excellent performance all round

Despite all of the above, I am very very happy with the performance today. That is probably the best performance I have seen under Pulis. I think Nacer Chadli is exactly what we have been missing for a long time. I can’t really fault anyone today but McClean, Chadli and Rondon get special mentions. Some really excellent saves from Foster prevented us being even more nervous in the closing stages.

I think the crowd also got well behind the team today. It works both ways. We try to back the team regardless but show us style and passing like that and we will respond. We understand we are not Brazil but we don’t want to sit there thinking about all the other stuff we could be getting done on a Saturday. For once I agree with Pulis – today was very entertaining. That is all we’re asking for.

It was good to see Robson-Kanu and Nyom getting some game time. They both look good. It’s not their fault that we were expecting some higher profile names. I think they are solid additions and will be able to contribute a great deal throughout the season.

 

Oh…Jimmy Jimmy

Mozza’s new contract

One of the major summer sagas for Albion was James Morrison’s contract situation. After several contracts over 9 years, his final agreement had run down and Mozza was free to leave. We all thought the newly promoted Middlesbrough would be his destination, but it wasn’t to be. He then ended up signing a new contract with us along with a considerable pay rise. Call me cynical, but I believe that if Middlesbrough were interested and would have paid his wage demands, he would be a Boro player now.

By all accounts his new deal is around £65k a week. Personally I don’t think he should be on more than £40k but that may be pre sky money thinking on my part.

Moaning in the media

Only weeks after signing his new deal, he was sending out remarks in the press about being frustrated that he is not playing. This is a guy who got injured in January and played no further part in the last 13 games of the season. We stuck with him through his recovery through the summer, and he has been back to fitness mere weeks before complaining about lack of playing time, and threatening to join Celtic. I know he has been a loyal servant but he is now 30 years old and will need to accept that at some point that he will not be able to complete every game over a full season.

I don’t know why he isn’t being selected. I don’t know whether Pulis still has questions about his fitness, or if Pulis is trying different things now we have our wingers. But to sit out a few games then run to the media complaining is ridiculous and suggests arrogance to me. How about Pocognoli, and Gamboa, and McManaman, and every other bugger who was stuck in the bomb squad down in the dungeon for months?

False promises

When the story came out about Mozza being frustrated at the lack of game time, a lot were defending him, stating that he had been made the same promises that we had about ambitious transfer plans. Sorry, but Morrison is an employee who is paid handsomely – not a fan. We pay to watch our team and he gets paid to do his job and play football. He has been here 9 years. I’m sure over that time he has learnt (like the rest of us) what Peace and our transfer windows are like, and that you shouldn’t base your career decisions on what Peace says we are going to do.

Sorry but I refuse to have sympathy for someone who stayed here because we gave him what he wanted when no one else would. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with Morrison as a footballer and he does bring quality to the team when he plays; I just wasn’t impressed with the comments in the media.

Latest thoughts on TP and the board

The Pulis Out camp is growing

People who follow me on twitter will know it has taken me longer than most to join the “Pulis Out” camp. I will admit I was very pleased when it was announced we had got Pulis on board. I never thought he would come into a set up like ours. Here was an established manager who would do things his way, instead of the committee of coaches and other randomers like McDonough doing what they liked. I maintain that the state we were in following Irvine’s departure meant that Pulis was a necessary evil.

Then – up until very recently – I was of the opinion that he is doing his best with the squad we have, and that his remit was to keep us in this league ready for a takeover. Over the past month I have become increasingly frustrated with the things he says and does. The final straw came for me when he started making comments about our loyal fans, who have been here – and will be here – far longer than he ever will.

At Bournemouth the team was fully backed throughout the game. Even through all of our own time wasting that started in the first 15 minutes of the match and aimless balls flying over Berahino’s head. During injury time there was a round of “Tony Pulis – your football is sh*t”, and at the final whistle it sounded to me like the majority were singing it. The interesting thing is that during TP’s reign these types of chants and grumblings were shouted down. Not on Saturday. Even the people who may have disagreed kept quiet. The tide had finally turned.

TP’s media friends

The latest person to jump to the defence of Pulis is Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail. The damage limitation exercise is well underway from Pulis (and the club hierarchy too, for that matter). For me these journalists are being briefed by Pulis to put “his side” of the story across. He wants everyone – including his next potential employer – to know how he has done nothing wrong and it is all that Jeremy Peace’s fault. Yes, we all know that Peace is no angel (and that’s a whole debate in itself), but isn’t a sign of a good work ethic to go above and beyond the minimum expectations? That leads me nicely on to my next section….

“I have done what has been asked of me”

In Pulis’ own words, his remit was to “keep the club in the Premier League whilst maintaining a profit”, which is fair enough. I can see how Peace would want to keep things just ticking over until he could sell us on.

One problem I have with this is about work ethic. I would have thought someone who constantly bangs on about “working hard” would have the motivation to go above and beyond minimum expectations put on him. Just because Peace wants 17th doesn’t mean you can’t personally aim higher. Is this why we did practically nothing after reaching 40 points last season? He could have just let us all know that the season had finished once we reached 40 points and not to bother attending.

Another problem with his side fo the story is all the things that no one asked him or forced him to do. Things such as:

  • Who asked him to sign players like Chester and McManaman and keep them on the bench? (We didn’t have a DOF then)
  • Who asked him to keep bringing Gardner on when we go 1-0 down?
  • Who asked him to instruct Foster to start time wasting in games after 15 minutes?
  • Who asked him to provide the most mind-numbingly boring football in the league?
  • Who asked him to treat the fans like idiots and make irrelevant comparisons with himself and Alan Irvine?
  • Who asked him to disrespect our new owner by never using his name and referring to him like the local takeaway?

If someone did indeed ask him to do these things then yes I agree with Pulis and they are the ones who need to be sacked. But I doubt anyone asked him to do these things.

Lai, Peace and Williams

I think it is obvious to everyone now that Pulis knows his days are numbered. He has become very defensive in his press conferences and interviews. He will never walk away due to his Palace debts so I believe he is trying to goad the board to sack him.

The problem we have at the moment is that we are in leadership limbo. Williams is releasing statements even though officially he isn’t really the chairman until the takeover is complete and Peace steps into his advisory role. Peace will not sack the manager when he will no longer own us past the end of this week, and Lai can’t sack anyone until he has control. If reports are correct then Mr Lai will officially become our main man this week. With relations between Pulis, Williams and the board obviously very strained at the moment, I would hope that we have been very actively looking for a replacement.

 

Hopefully by the end of October Pulis will have sailed off into the sunset with his severance package, and we will have a new manager in place.