Tag Archives: West Bromwich Albion

Premier League Files: Graham Dorrans

Premier League Career: West Bromwich Albion (2008-2009), (2010-2015), Norwich City (2015-2016)

Graham Dorrans has divided his career between the English and Scottish leagues. He started his professional journey at Livingston and has also played for Partick Thistle north of the border. In England, he represented West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City before returning to Scottish football, signing for Rangers in 2017. Dorrans has won 12 international caps for Scotland, making his senior debut for the Scots in October 2009.

Graham came through the ranks at Livingston alongside a fellow colleague who would move into the Premier League later in his career in Robert Snodgrass. During this time, he also had a 15-game loan stint at Partick Thistle, recording five goals for the Glasgow side. After impressing at Livingston and winning the Scottish First Division Player’s Player of the Year award in 2007-2008, Dorrans agreed to move down south, linking up with West Bromwich Albion in a move that was initially agreed for £200,000 in January 2008.

Dorrans joined up with his new teammates that summer but had to wait until December for his Premier League bow, arriving as a half-time substitute in a victory over Manchester City. His 30-minute cameo was impressive, playing a big role in Luke Moore opening the scoring and he received praise from his manager afterwards who said: “He’s outstanding on the pitch with his ability to manipulate the ball, create and play clever disguised passes.”

He made another seven appearances that season in the Premier League but West Brom were relegated and he broke his metatarsal towards the end of the season in a fixture against Liverpool FC.

He was outstanding on West Brom’s return to second-tier football, scoring 13 times and ensuring it was a swift return back to the Premier League. Widely praised for his control, skill and readership of the game, Dorrans signed two new contract extensions during the 2010 calendar year to stave off interest from a number of interested suitors, including West Ham United who saw bids rejected for the Scotsman.

Dorrans was voted into the Championship Team of the Year but couldn’t sustain the goalscoring form he’s shown in the Championship on West Brom’s return to the football elite. Nevertheless, he still made 52 Premier League appearances combined in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 as Albion became a consistent finisher in the mid-table positions.

After being left out of a matchday squad by Steve Clarke for the New Year’s Day clash with Fulham in January 2013, he was made available for transfer. Clarke insisted that discussions between manager and player were still cordial and he would only leave if there was an interested party willing to pay a respectable fee. No offers were forthcoming and Dorrans actually stayed with the Baggies through the rest of Clarke’s reign, plus that of Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine.

He signed a three-year contract extension in July 2014 and made 21 appearances in 2014-2015, scoring in a commanding victory over Burnley. However, he left West Brom on the final day of the 2015 winter transfer window and moved on-loan to Norwich City for the remainder of the season. He helped guide rookie manager Alex Neil through the navigation of a competitive division and the Canaries triumphed via the play-offs to return to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. With promotion secured, Dorrans’ move to Carrow Road became a permanent one.

He made 21 Premier League appearances in 2015-2016 but failed to score and Norwich were relegated at the end of the season. After another season in East Anglia, he was attracted to the revival Rangers have embarked on in Scottish football. Dorrans has currently scored five goals and created four others for teammates but has only managed 23 games due to persistent injuries in his first two campaigns at Ibrox. Often on the sidelines because of this, it remains doubtful if he is going to be part of Steven Gerrard’s long-term plans as the Gers look to close the gap on Glasgow rivals Celtic.

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Premier League Files: Rob Earnshaw

Premier League Career: West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006), Derby County (2007-2008)

Rob Earnshaw remains the only player to have scored a hat-trick in the Premier League, all three divisions of the Football League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and at international level for Wales. Earnshaw enjoyed goalscoring royalty at Cardiff City and his goals were crucial to West Bromwich Albion avoiding relegation in dramatic fashion in 2004-2005.

Although he played for Wales at international level, Earnshaw was born in Zambia. His mother was a professional footballer and later became a boxer whilst his father worked in the mines. The family moved to Malawi when Rob was five but in 1990, his father contracted typhoid fever and suddenly died. His mother, Rita, decided to move the family to a small Welsh town in the south of the country where her sister lived. Growing up in school, he supported Manchester United and excelled at PE, especially at gymnastics, basketball and football.

Earnshaw joined Cardiff City’s YTS scheme in 1997 and a year later, he turned professional. After making his debut in the first-team at the age of just 16, Earnshaw was loaned out to Scottish side Morton in January 2000 by the Cardiff boss at the time, Frank Burrows. Earnshaw later admitted the experience of going out on-loan made him a better player and showed him he needed to work hard.

From 2000 to 2004, Earnshaw broke several club records as he became a prolific goalscorer for Cardiff. He scored a number of hat-tricks in Division Three, Division Two and Division One and made the Football League PFA Team of the Year in two successive years. His prominence in finding the back of the net meant he received plenty of attention from numerous clubs in the summer of 2004. Interest came from Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic and Scottish giants Celtic. Cardiff owner Sam Hammam even went on to say if he was sold: “They would hang me in the city centre.” However, he was eventually sold to West Bromwich Albion for £3.5 million. In fact, after leaving Cardiff in 2004, Earnshaw’s total transfer fees came to a figure of £12.65 million.

It took some time for Rob to adjust to the higher level of football. He didn’t score for the club until his seventh appearance which was a brace in a 2-2 draw away at Southampton. However, he regularly found the back of the net once he’d broken his duck for the Baggies. Among the 14 goals he did net in 2004-2005 were vital goals to earn draws for West Brom away at Arsenal and Manchester United. In March 2005, he arrived into the game at The Valley against Charlton Athletic with an hour gone and the scoreline locked at 1-1. Earnshaw completed his feat of scoring a hat-trick in all major professional football levels in 30 minutes and also became the first Albion player to score a treble in the Premier League era.

Despite helping the club retain their Premier League status, manager Bryan Robson often used him as a substitute, much to his chagrin. In December 2005, he submitted two transfer requests which were both rejected but eventually, he left The Hawthorns to seek first-team opportunities elsewhere. Championship club Norwich City signed him on transfer deadline day in January 2006 as a replacement for Dean Ashton, who’d gone to West Ham United. After scoring 19 times in the 2006-2007 campaign for the Canaries, Derby County broke their transfer record to sign him in June 2007 for £3.5 million following their promotion back to the Premier League.

His season at Pride Park was a nightmare, just like the team. He was in-and-out of the side and didn’t score for the club until an FA Cup defeat to Preston North End in January 2008. His sole Premier League goal for the Rams came in a 6-2 defeat to Arsenal and was left out of the squad on the final day of the season as Derby accepted bids from Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United for his services. His Premier League career was over.

It was Forest who won the race to sign Earnshaw that summer and his figures of 35 goals in 98 league appearances between 2008 and 2011 were decent, though nowhere near the figures he enjoyed in his fruitful first spell at Cardiff. He returned to the Bluebirds for a less productive second spell in 2011 before winding down his career with periods at Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Toronto FC, Blackpool, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps.

After retirement in 2016, Earnshaw stayed on in Vancouver as a youth coach before being announced as an assistant coach for USL side Fresno FC ahead of their first-ever season. As a player for Wales, he scored 16 goals, winning 59 caps. Currently, he is the seventh-highest all-time goalscorer in Wales’ international history.

Premier League Rewind: 15th May 2005

Results: Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers 3-2 Everton, Charlton Athletic 2-2 Crystal Palace, Fulham 6-0 Norwich City, Liverpool FC 2-1 Aston Villa, Manchester City 1-1 Middlesbrough, Newcastle United 1-1 Chelsea, Southampton 1-2 Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Portsmouth

The centre of attention on the final day of the 2004-2005 Premier League season was at the bottom of the table. For the first time in the competition’s history, all three relegation spots were up for grabs and by full-time, only one set of supporters from Norwich City, Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion would be celebrating survival.

The team in the driving seat were Norwich. They were outside the bottom three and a first away victory of the season at Craven Cottage against a Fulham side with little to play for would secure their top-flight status and relegate the other three sides irrespective of their results. However, as soon as Brian McBride had the Cottagers infront after just 10 minutes, it looked like it would be a long afternoon for the Canaries supporters. Any hope of beating the drop was virtually extinguished by Papa Bouba Diop’s cracking free-kick and it turned into a mauling for Nigel Worthington’s side. Andy Cole came off the bench to round the scoring off in stoppage-time. Fulham won 6-0 and Norwich were relegated.

The Canaries’ miserable afternoon in west London meant there was an opportunity for the other three teams then to escape the drop. Southampton had the trickiest fixture even though they were at home on the last day to FA Cup finalists Manchester United. They made a brilliant start, with an own goal off John O’Shea giving the Saints a lead at virtually the same time as Norwich were going a goal down at Fulham. A Darren Fletcher header did little to change the outcomes and at half-time, the point was enough for Harry Redknapp to protect his record of not experiencing Premier League relegation on his CV. Ruud van Nistelrooy had other ideas. The Dutchman had experienced a difficult campaign plagued by injuries by his 62nd minute header – his sixth league goal of the season put the Red Devils infront and they held on for a 2-1 victory to end Southampton’s 27-year stay in England’s top-flight.

So, Norwich and Southampton were both down, which meant it was a straight shootout between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion for survival. Palace travelled to a Charlton Athletic side without a win in their last eight games but they trailed at half-time to Bryan Hughes’ first half effort. Iain Dowie then brought Dougie Freedman off the bench and soon after his arrival; he put the Eagles level with a cute chip over the advancing Charlton goalkeeper Dean Kiely. Then, Mark Clattenburg pointed to the penalty spot when Jonathan Fortune handled the ball in his own penalty area. Andy Johnson’s 21st goal of the season meant Dowie’s side were now just 19 minutes from safety. However, with eight minutes remaining, Fortune made amends with a towering header from a free-kick to level the scores at 2-2. That is how it ended but would it be enough for Palace to avoid a fourth Premier League relegation?

It wouldn’t be the case if West Bromwich Albion beat Portsmouth at The Hawthorns. The Baggies were bottom going into the final day and only a win would be enough to give them a chance of achieving survival. Just a minute after his arrival into the match as a second half substitute, Geoff Horsfield drilled the Baggies into the lead and on-loan midfielder Kieran Richardson settled the contest with 15 minutes remaining. When he scored, Palace were winning so the three points weren’t enough but Fortune’s equaliser at The Valley sent The Hawthorns into a carnival atmosphere. No team in Premier League history had ever done what West Brom had just done. They were bottom on Christmas Day but had achieved survival on this, the ultimate Survival Sunday.’

Away from the drama at the bottom of the table and the other dramatic issue was who would take seventh place and the final UEFA Cup position in the table. Middlesbrough held the advantage and were playing chief rivals Manchester City at Eastlands. The scoreline was 1-1 when City had a late penalty. If Robbie Fowler had converted it, the Citizens would have claimed seventh position but his spot-kick was saved by Mark Schwarzer so Boro held on for the point that secured the last European qualification spot.

What else happened in May 2005?

  • Labour and Tony Blair win their third successive General Election but only a majority of 66 seats – a great reduction on their recent margin of victory in 2001.
  • After the election, Conservative party leader Michael Howard announced his intention to step down.
  • Liverpool FC win their fifth European Cup in sensational fashion, beating AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul after coming back from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest is won by Greece’s Helena Paparizou with her song “My Number One.”
  • 27-year-old transport manager Tim Campbell wins the first series of The Apprentice, winning a £100,000 job with Lord Alan Sugar’s firm, Amstrad.
  • American businessman Malcolm Glazer gains control of Manchester United after securing a 70% share. The takeover angers many United supporters.
  • BBC Weather relaunches, changing to 3D graphics.

 

Memorable Matches: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-5 West Bromwich Albion (February 2012)

Goalscorers: Peter Odemwingie 34, 77, 88, Steven Fletcher 45, Jonas Olsson 64, Keith Andrews 85

Teams:

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wayne Hennessey, Sebastien Bassong (Christophe Berra 61), Kevin Foley, Roger Johnson, Stephen Ward, David Edwards (Nenad Milijas 69), Jamie O’Hara, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Steven Fletcher

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell, Steven Reid, Paul Scharner (Keith Andrews 46), Youssouf Mulumbu, James Morrison, Jerome Thomas (Simon Cox 76), Marc-Antoine Fortune, Peter Odemwingie (Graham Dorrans 89)

Referee: Lee Mason, Attendance: 27,131

Roy Hodgson needed a result ahead of this Black Country Derby in February 2012. West Bromwich Albion had won just one of their previous seven matches and were looking in a precarious position. Wolves were reeling them in and had notched up a vital win eight days earlier away at Queens Park Rangers. So the outcome was a real surprise for both sets of supporters.

West Brom took the lead after 34 minutes. Peter Odemwingie was allowed to cut inside far too easily and his strike on-goal took a massive deflection off David Edwards to completely deceive Wayne Hennessey. The visitors deserved the lead for their early sustained pressure on the Wolves goal.

However, in the final seconds of the first half, Wolves levelled against the run of play. The front three of Kevin Doyle, Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and Steven Fletcher linked up brilliantly and Fletcher’s shot went through the legs of a West Brom defender, leaving Ben Foster unsighted and unable to stop the shot from going in.

West Brom regained the lead on 64 minutes. Gareth McAuley hit a post from a corner but the home side failed to clear their lines. McAuley’s centre-back partner, Jonas Olsson tried his luck and Hennessey allowed the ball to slip through his grasp and just over the goal-line. The goalkeeper should have done better but teammate Jamie O’Hara did interfere with his vision at the crucial moment.

In truth, Hodgson’s side had completely dominated this Black Country Derby and with 13 minutes left, they finally established a winning lead. Yet again, Wolves failed to deal with a set-piece. Liam Ridgewell got an unchallenged header at the back post. Olsson played his part with a nice flick into the path of Odemwingie and the forward stabbed the ball into the net from close-range.

Wolves’ humiliation was almost complete five minutes from full-time. Keith Andrews, who had started his professional career at Molineux, found the net to make it 4-1. Again, another deflection had got the better of Hennessey. The visiting supporters loved this and more joy was to come. Odemwingie completed his hat-trick moments before he was substituted. It was his finest performance in a West Bromwich Albion shirt and this result remains West Brom’s biggest victory in their Premier League history.

It was a perfect way for Hodgson to celebrate a year in-charge as manager but the repercussions of this hefty defeat were huge for Wolves. Mick McCarthy was sacked 24 hours later and they failed to win another game before the end of the season as they were relegated to the Championship.

Seasonal Stories: West Bromwich Albion (2004-2005)

Defying history  

The 2004-2005 Premier League campaign saw a fascinating battle to preserve top-flight status. On Christmas Day 2004, West Bromwich Albion were bottom of the table and looking in dire straits. No side before them had escaped relegation from this perilous situation. However, the Baggies made history and survived on an epic last day.

Megson departs

West Bromwich Albion were about to embark on their second Premier League campaign in the summer of 2004. Relegated in their debut season, the Baggies had made an instant return, finishing runners-up to Norwich City in the First Division. Once again, it was Gary Megson who would be in-charge of the men from The Hawthorns.

£5 million was invested into the squad in the summer transfer window. Rob Earnshaw came in for £3 million from Cardiff City, whilst former Nigerian international Kanu bolstered the striking options further, joining after his contract had expired at Arsenal.

The season started solidly enough with three successive 1-1 draws against Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. However, it wasn’t until early October until a maiden victory in the season arrived. High-flying Bolton Wanderers arrived in the Midlands sitting in fourth position but they were beaten 2-1 after a week where the first signs of rifts within the dressing room and the manager had been reported in the press. Summer arrivals Kanu and Zoltan Gera got the goals in the victory over the Trotters. It ensured West Brom were the first newly-promoted club to win in the campaign.

Despite the win, relations between Megson and owner Jeremy Peace were straining towards breaking point. Shortly after the Bolton victory, Megson announced that he would not sign a new deal if offered one by the club and he would leave his post as manager at the end of the season. Three days after a 3-0 away defeat to relegation rivals Crystal Palace, he left the club by mutual consent.

After Frank Burrows steered the club through a couple of games in caretaker charge, Bryan Robson was appointed as Megson’s permanent successor, taking the post on 9th November.

Giving, not receiving

Robson’s first game in charge was against one of his former clubs in Middlesbrough. After scoring his first two goals in the 2-2 draw away at Southampton, Earnshaw scored his first home Premier League goal for the club. However, Kanu’s unbelievable miss from virtually a couple of yards out in the closing stages meant Middlesbrough went away from the Midlands with all three points.

Earnshaw was in a purple patch of form and he found the target again a week later in a very respectable 1-1 draw away at champions Arsenal. That hard-fought point at Highbury though was followed by five successive defeats, beginning with a 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United. With other sides near the bottom finding some form, West Brom plummeted to the foot of the table.

The festive season performances were the stuff of nightmares. A demoralising 4-0 loss to local rivals Birmingham City ensured West Brom would go into Christmas Day propping up the table. That result was followed by a shambolic display at home to a Liverpool FC side on Boxing Day that had won only once on the road all season. John Arne Riise scored twice and Florent Sinama-Pongolle achieved a rare Premier League goal as Liverpool left The Hawthorns with a 5-0 victory and kept the hosts marooned to the bottom of the league.

Although Richard Dunne’s late own goal earned a point at Manchester City to finish 2004, Robson was yet to win a game at the helm as manager. They were bottom of the table going into 2005 and with no club previously having avoided relegation after being bottom on Christmas Day, the club’s Premier League future looked very bleak.

29TH DECEMBER 2004 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 20 3 10 7 19 32 -13 19
16 Fulham 20 5 3 12 22 35 -13 18
17 Crystal Palace 20 3 6 11 20 31 -11 15
18 Norwich City 20 2 9 9 17 36 -19 15
19 Southampton 20 2 8 10 18 32 -14 14
20 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 20 1 8 11 16 42 -26 11

Market moves

The opening of the January transfer window saw the chance for Robson to strengthen his squad. He brought in the experience of Kevin Campbell from Everton. His goals had saved the Toffees from relegation in 1999 and he certainly knew how to find the back of the net from his Arsenal days.

The promising midfielder Richard Chaplow was added from Burnley and Kieran Richardson joined on-loan from Manchester United. All three would play a part in this great escape. After 13 games without a win, Robson’s side recorded a 2-0 home win against Manchester City, with Campbell scoring on his home debut and Ronnie Wallwork getting a vital second in the closing stages.

Wins followed over Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic in March. At The Valley, Earnshaw scored a tremendous second half hat-trick to become the first player to score trebles in all four English divisions, the FA Cup, the League Cup and at international level for Wales. The 4-1 away victory at Charlton would turn out to be West Brom’s solitary away win of the season. However, this was the day when their fans really started to believe they could pull off the impossible.

Another win came at the start of April. Gera’s second half header steered the Baggies to a 1-0 win over Everton and took them off the foot of the table with Norwich replacing them as the basement club.

Survival Sunday

Defeats away to Middlesbrough and at home against Arsenal put Albion on the brink again as the final month of the season approached. Form continued to fluctuate between the Baggies, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton. The Canaries put together a run of four wins and a draw in six games to lift themselves out of the relegation zone going into the final round of games.

Danny Higginbotham’s stoppage-time equaliser for Southampton ensured the points were shared at Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace. Later that evening, Earnshaw’s 11th Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot earned Robson and West Brom a precious point at Old Trafford against Manchester United. For the first time in Premier League history, no side had been relegated before the final day of the season. ‘Survival Sunday’ was on.

Only Norwich had control of their situation. A win for them at Craven Cottage would relegate the other sides but they were beaten 6-0 by Fulham. That made relegation a certainty for the Canaries. Defeat at home to Manchester United meant Southampton would join them so that meant it was a straight shootout for survival between West Brom and Crystal Palace.

Albion had a winnable game at home to Portsmouth and after a nervy first half; they got the win they needed to have any chance of staying up. Seconds after arriving as a substitute, Geoff Horsfield scored the opening goal before Richardson ensured a 2-0 victory. They now needed a favour from Charlton at The Valley against Crystal Palace. With eight minutes left, Jonathan Fortune scored a dramatic equaliser for Charlton to make the scoreline 2-2 and push Palace into the drop zone. Despite their best efforts, the visitors’ couldn’t find the crucial winner they required.

FINAL 2004-2005 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 38 9 15 14 32 43 -11 42
16 Portsmouth 38 10 9 19 43 59 -16 39
17 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 38 6 16 16 36 61 -25 34
18 Crystal Palace 38 7 12 19 41 62 -21 33
19 Norwich City 38 7 12 19 42 77 -35 33
20 Southampton 38 6 14 18 45 66 -21 32

When the full-time whistle went in London, the party could begin at The Hawthorns with memorable scenes as fans invaded the pitch to greet and carry their heroes off the field. Robson had achieved a remarkable feat. No team in history before had been bottom on Christmas Day and survived.

Relegation would follow the following season and again in 2009 under Tony Mowbray. It was only when Roy Hodgson succeeded Roberto Di Matteo in February 2011 that their reputation as a yo-yo club ended. West Brom enjoyed an eight-year spell in the Premier League before suffering a fourth Premier League relegation in 2018. Whatever West Bromwich Albion will achieve in their future, it will have to go some to beat this remarkable tale of survival achieved in 2004-2005.

Premier League Rewind: 28th-30th April 2018

Results: Liverpool FC 0-0 Stoke City, Burnley 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace 5-0 Leicester City, Huddersfield Town 0-2 Everton, Newcastle United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion, Southampton 2-1 AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea, West Ham United 1-4 Manchester City, Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Watford

The 2017-2018 season was drifting towards its conclusion and with the championship already settled in favour of Manchester City, attention was starting to turn towards the bottom of the table. With three games left to play, only AFC Bournemouth and Watford came into the weekend virtually safe in the bottom half of the table. There was still plenty to play for.

West Bromwich Albion still had a mountain to climb but Darren Moore’s side were showing some resolve and steel that had been missing for much of the campaign. Matt Phillips’ goal after 29 minutes steered them to a fantastic 1-0 away victory at Newcastle United. In four games in caretaker charge, Moore had now amassed eight points and kept Albion still with a slender chance of beating the drop. Newcastle remained 10th but this was their first home loss in 2018.

Time was starting to run out for Stoke City. Paul Lambert had failed to muster a single victory since his first match in-charge and that run increased to 12 games despite a battling 0-0 draw away at Anfield against Liverpool FC. Mohamed Salah missed a great opportunity after just six minutes and a well-drilled Stoke side kept the home side quiet who were in-between their two legs of the UEFA Champions League semi-final against AS Roma.

Southampton had won just one match in the Premier League throughout 2018 but they kept themselves in with a shout of beating the drop after overcoming AFC Bournemouth 2-1 in a tense South Coast Derby. Dusan Tadic’s final parting gift to Southampton fans before his summer departure for Ajax saw the Serbian international score twice to help Mark Hughes to his first victory in the league as Southampton boss. It would ultimately turn out to be an imperative three points for the club.

Going in the wrong direction were Swansea City. The Swans had failed to win a game in the Premier League since early March and that run stretched to five matches after losing 1-0 at home to Chelsea. Cesc Fabregas scored the only goal of the game after just four minutes. It was the Spaniard’s 50th Premier League goal.

One team who had nothing to worry about now were Crystal Palace. Safety was virtually guaranteed after the Eagles recorded their biggest-ever victory in the Premier League, dismantling Leicester City 5-0. The Foxes had Marc Albrighton sent off in the second half but never looked at the races at Selhurst Park with Wilfried Zaha in scintillating form. Six points clear of safety, Palace were heading towards the comfortable reaches of mid-table.

Before the game at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Arsenal, Arsene Wenger was given a special presentation to celebrate his 22-year stint as Gunners boss pre-match by current Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and his old adversary, Sir Alex Ferguson. On-the-pitch, Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored on his first visit back to The Theatre of Dreams since his January departure but Arsenal were denied a point by Marouane Fellaini’s stoppage-time header.

A 4-1 win at The London Stadium over West Ham United saw Manchester City achieve another landmark. Thanks to an own goal from Declan Rice, Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering superstars had now achieved the milestone of 100 goals in the season and saw them equal Chelsea’s record of 30 wins in a Premier League season achieved in 2016-2017.

What else happened in April 2018?

  • Another of Theresa May’s closest allies in the Conservative government resigns, as Amber Rudd forfeits her position as Home Secretary following the revelations in the Windrush scandal.
  • The United States, the United Kingdom and France order the bombing of Syrian military bases, in response to the sarin chemical attack in Douma.
  • The Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a baby boy. Louis Arthur Charles become fifth in-line to the throne.
  • 10 people are killed in a vehicle-ramming attack in Toronto, Canada. A 25-year-old suspect is arrested.
  • The Gold Coast in Australia hosts the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
  • Cinemas open in Saudi Arabia for the first time since 1983.
  • Miguel Díaz-Canel is sworn in as President of Cuba. It is the first time in 59 years that the surname Castro hasn’t occupied office in Cuba.

Shock Results: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 West Bromwich Albion (November 2017)

Goalscorers: Salomon Rondon 4, Harry Kane 74

Teams:

Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier, Davinson Sanchez, Jan Vertonghen (Fernando Llorente 60), Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Winks (Mousa Dembele 61), Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Kieran Gibbs, Jonny Evans, Ahmed Hegazi, Allan Nyom, Gareth Barry (Claudio Yacob 79), Jake Livermore, Sam Field (James McClean 67), Matt Phillips, Jay Rodriguez (Hal Robson-Kanu 67), Salomon Rondon

Referee: Mike Jones, Attendance: 65,905

11 games without a win in the Premier League, West Bromwich Albion took the bold step to part ways with survival specialist Tony Pulis. Pulis departed with the club just hovering outside the relegation zone. In caretaker charge ahead of a trip to Wembley Stadium was Gary Megson, who was taking charge of his first Premier League match since being sacked as Bolton manager in December 2009.

West Brom were visiting a Tottenham side that were flying in the UEFA Champions League but had won just one of their last three league matches and had been thoroughly outplayed and beaten in the North London Derby a week earlier.

Megson didn’t tinker much from Pulis’ last team selection, only dropping Grzegorz Krychowiak and Gareth McAuley from the side that lost 4-0 to Chelsea a week earlier. Sam Field and Allan Nyom came into the starting XI. However, it was a former Tottenham player who made a big early contribution for the visitors.

Just four minutes had been played when ex-Tottenham midfielder Jake Livermore won possession in the middle of the park and played through Salomon Rondon. Rondon showed greater strength than Davinson Sanchez, nudging him off a bit too easily and then, he showed great calmness to roll the ball beyond Hugo Lloris. West Brom had a shock lead after just four minutes.

Apart from a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool FC, Tottenham’s league performances at Wembley had been scratchy. Chelsea had won there, Swansea City and Burnley leaving with draws and West Brom’s defensive effort ensured this would be another frustrating afternoon on their temporary home soil for Mauricio Pochettino. The Londoners enjoyed 73% of possession but they failed to create much in the way of clear-cut opportunities.

Kieran Trippier was causing danger down the right flank but his balls into the box were not finding Harry Kane. West Brom skipper Jonny Evans and his centre-back partner, Ahmed Hegazi were enjoying a great day, keeping Kane and Heung-Min Son relatively quiet. In the second half, Pochettino was forced to change tactic. He took off Jan Vertonghen and Harry Winks, throwing on Mousa Dembele and an extra forward too in the form of Fernando Llorente.

Despite their constant pressure throughout, it looked like Tottenham might not find a way through until the 74th minute. Dele Alli produced the best ball of the match and Kane finally managed to escape the attentions of Evans to scoop a shot underneath Ben Foster’s legs. It was his 47th goal for club and country in 2017.

Despite having just six touches in the opposition box all game, West Brom held on for an unlikely but gritty point. However, although they beat Spurs at The Hawthorns in May, they would be relegated. Tottenham finished in the top three for a third successive season.

Iconic Moments: Survival Sunday – Albion escape (May 2005)

On the final day of the 2004-2005 Premier League season, none of the bottom four were guaranteed of avoiding relegation. It was between Norwich City, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. By the end of the afternoon, one club would be celebrating survival and the other three would be feeling the pain of relegation.

For Norwich, a first away win of the season at Craven Cottage against Fulham would condemn the other three sides regardless of their results. That never looked likely once Brian McBride put the home side ahead in the 10th minute. The Canaries wilted in the bright west London sunshine, losing 6-0. They were going to be relegated.

At half-time, it was Southampton who were in the box seat. Harry Redknapp’s side had the toughest game against Manchester United but were drawing 1-1. John O’Shea’s own goal had been cancelled out by a fine header from Darren Fletcher. Unfortunately, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s sixth goal of an injury-hit domestic season would mean the Saints’ 13-year Premier League stay would come to an end. It was Redknapp’s first Premier League relegation as a manager.

West Bromwich Albion started the day bottom of the table and only a win would do at home to Portsmouth. Less than a minute after his arrival from the substitute’s bench, Geoff Horsfield volleyed the Baggies into a precious lead. On-loan midfielder Kieran Richardson added a second goal to give West Brom a 2-0 victory. Now, they had to wait and hope Crystal Palace didn’t win at The Valley.

The Eagles trailed at half-time to out-of-form Charlton Athletic but recovered brilliantly in the second half. They were leading with eight minutes left until Jonathan Fortune’s header saw the Addicks level the match and plunge Iain Dowie’s side back into the bottom three. They couldn’t find another goal so the draw wasn’t enough. That meant the party could begin at The Hawthorns. It was West Bromwich Albion who prevailed on ‘Survival Sunday.’

In the process, they’d made their own piece of Premier League history. No side previously had been bottom on Christmas Day and escaped relegation. Albion had just proven it could be done.

Shock Results: Manchester United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion (April 2018)

Goalscorer: Jay Rodriguez 73

Teams:

Manchester United: David de Gea, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young (Marcus Rashford 75), Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera (Jesse Lingard 45), Paul Pogba (Anthony Martial 58), Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi, Kieran Gibbs, Allan Nyom, Chris Brunt (Claudio Yacob 90), Jake Livermore, James McClean, Matt Phillips (Grzegorz Krychowiak 77), Jay Rodriguez, Salomon Rondon (Daniel Sturridge 85)

Referee: Paul Tierney, Attendance: 75,095

Since their Manchester Derby victory at Old Trafford in December 2017, there had been little doubt that Manchester City were going to claim their third Premier League title. However, Jose Mourinho’s men had delayed the inevitable a week earlier, coming from 2-0 down to defeat City 3-2 at The Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola’s side had bounced back less than 24 hours earlier, dismissing Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley Stadium. They knew they would become champions if Manchester United failed to beat West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. The chances of that happening seemed slim. West Brom were bottom of the table, destined for relegation and had won only three league matches all season. The Baggies were now being guided by former player Darren Moore, who had replaced Alan Pardew in the job 13 days earlier.

Mourinho’s side should have been full of confidence after their Derby heroics eight days previously but as the rain started to fall at The Theatre of Dreams, they put in a tepid first half display that was systematic to some of their performances in the top head-to-head matches. Paul Pogba, who had been behind the caviller fightback at Eastlands, was completely anonymous against the bottom club and sacrificed for Anthony Martial after 58 minutes. The home side simply couldn’t get themselves going.

In fact, it was the visitors who created the best opening of the first half. Jake Livermore broke through but was denied by smart goalkeeping from the ever-reliable David de Gea. De Gea would be outdone though by his opposite number. Ben Foster pulled off one of the saves of the season midway through the second half, flying to his left-hand side to push away a powerful Romelu Lukaku header.

As the game wore on, West Brom simply grew in confidence and with 17 minutes left, they took the lead from their classic route of scoring; via a set-piece delivery. Chris Brunt’s delivery wasn’t cleared by the home defenders and Jay Rodriguez was in the right place to tuck the ball into the back of De Gea’s net from close-range.

Foster made another important save from Lukaku shortly afterwards and although they enjoyed 70% possession, West Brom matched United’s total for shots on-target. They fully merited this victory. Paul Tierney’s full-time whistle confirmed Manchester City officially as Premier League champions and they would finish a massive 19 points clear at the end of the season.

Although they would eventually experience the inevitability of relegation, West Brom finished their season in great form, beating Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in the run-in. That form was enough for Moore, who played 104 times for the club during a five-season spell to land the job in late May on a permanent basis.

Iconic Moments: A Premier League record for Barry (September 2017)

It was a tough season for everyone connected with West Bromwich Albion but whilst it ended in relegation, Gareth Barry did claim a Premier League record. When he lined up for the Baggies in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in September 2017, he made his 633rd top-flight appearance. This made him the highest appearance maker in Premier League history, succeeding Manchester United legend and current manager of Wales, Ryan Giggs.

The midfielder made his Premier League debut aged just 17 in May 1998 at Hillsborough, playing for Aston Villa against Sheffield Wednesday. He joined Manchester City in 2009 and three years later, won the Premier League title. After a four-year spell on Merseyside with Everton, Barry moved to West Brom in mid-August 2017 and helped himself to a goal later in the season in a home loss to Manchester United.

The ex-England international won’t add to his tally this season after extending his contract to stay at The Hawthorns. His aim this season will be to try and get WBA back to the top-flight at the first attempt. However, his current tally of 653 appearances is likely to stand for many years to come.

 

Great Goals: Sofiane Boufal – SOUTHAMPTON vs. West Bromwich Albion (October 2017)

In his two seasons with Southampton, Sofiane Boufal has only shown flashes of the promise he demonstrated whilst playing in France. The Moroccan though did produce this exceptional piece of solo brilliance in a fairly sterile game against West Bromwich Albion.

The game on the south coast looked like it was petering out towards a pretty ordinary 0-0 draw when Boufal took centre stage in the 85th minute. The tricky winger, who had only arrived into the contest as a substitute four minutes earlier, he twisted past Allan Nyom in his own half before using his speed to leave Jake Livermore trailing in his wake. As Boufal continued his surge towards goal, he bamboozled past Craig Dawson. Desperate to keep up having been the first man beaten, Nyom ran into Dawson and both hit the turf. Gareth McAuley was the next defender who backed off and was beaten and lastly, goalkeeper Ben Foster couldn’t stop his neatly-placed effort into the bottom corner.

It was a goal fitting to win a tight match between two sides who would ultimately spend the majority of the campaign at the wrong end of the table. It didn’t sparkle Boufal’s season into life though. He was left out of Morocco’s squad for the 2018 World Cup finals and was recently excluded from the Saints’ pre-season tour of China by new manager Mark Hughes. His future at the club looks bleak.

However, this tremendous solo goal was voted by fans as the Carling Goal of the Season for the 2017-2018 campaign.

Premier League Files: Ronnie Wallwork

Premier League Career: Manchester United (1997-2001), West Bromwich Albion (2002-2003, 2004-2006)

Ronnie Wallwork is one of the fortunate players to have a Premier League title winners’ medal to his name. He made 12 appearances in the 2000-2001 season which meant he qualified for a medal as Manchester United cantered to their seventh league championship in nine seasons.

Having been capped four times by England’s Under-20 side in 1997, Wallwork was a player who did have the potential to go further but his career would take a dramatic fall from grace.

A lifelong Manchester United supporter, he joined the club as a trainee in July 1994 and signed professional forms less than a year later. He helped the Red Devils win the FA Youth Cup in 1995 and in 1996, was voted the club’s Young Player of the Year. Things were looking good for further progression.

By the start of the 1997-1998 season, Ronnie was a regular in the reserve teams at Old Trafford but needed to make a first-team breakthrough. He got his first experience of Premier League football in October 1997, replacing Gary Pallister as a 64th minute substitute in United’s 7-0 thumping of Barnsley. To further advance his education, he had loan spells over the next 18 months at Carlisle United, Stockport County and Manchester United’s feeder Belgian side, Royal Antwerp. It was whilst he was in Belgium that his first sign of a short temper became known.

After Antwerp lost a match to La Louviere which ended their hopes of promotion, Wallwork grabbed referee Amand Ancion by the throat. In the same incident, fellow United youth player and Antwerp colleague, Danny Higginbotham insulted the official. The Belgian FA took a dim view to both actions. Higginbotham was banned from football for a year whilst unbelievably; Wallwork was banned from playing in all FIFA-affiliated nations for life!  Antwerp secretary Rene Snelders was quoted as saying: “This is the equivalent of the death penalty.”

Whilst both actions were unacceptable, the sentencing was exceptionally harsh and after numerous appeals, both sentences were dropped down in length with Wallwork’s final penalty being a 12-month ban from all competitions in Belgium. After this messy incident, he got back to business with his parent club and made a breakthrough in the 1999-2000 season. Used largely as a defensive midfielder, he made seven appearances in the Premier League, just missing out on a title winners’ medal. The following season, he achieved the magical number required to get recognised for medals, finishing with 12 appearances but they were to be his last Premier League efforts. The signings of Juan Sebastian Veron and Laurent Blanc pushed Wallwork further down the pecking order and in the summer of 2002, he was released by his boyhood club.

In July 2002, he moved to West Bromwich Albion, becoming Gary Megson’s first signing after promotion to the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson had given his own high recommendation, saying Wallwork was the “best Bosman of the summer.” He played in 27 of Albion’s 38 Premier League matches in 2002-2003 which was a tough year personally for him after his mother passed away at the start of 2003. West Brom were relegated and after falling out of favour under Megson when the club were back in the First Division, he was loaned out to Bradford City in January 2004.

Bryan Robson was the Bradford manager at the time and he managed to add a few more goals to Wallwork’s game by playing him further forward in midfield. A broken toe sustained against Rotherham United cut short this period in Yorkshire but a four-goal return from seven appearances was impressive stats. So, when Robson succeeded Megson as West Brom manager in November 2004 with the club back in the top-flight, you could imagine Ronnie’s delight. He became an integral part of the team and started every single match from December onwards. In January 2005, he scored his first Albion goal to wrap up a 2-0 home victory over Manchester City which was Robson’s first victory as Baggies boss.

On the final day of the season, West Brom beat Portsmouth and with results going their way, they became the first club in Premier League history to be bottom at Christmas and still avoid relegation. He won Player of the Season recognition for his efforts and extended his contract in the process. There would be no happy ending though.

He played 31 games in the following season but West Brom were relegated for a second time in his stint with the Black Country club and he would be frozen out of proceedings when Robson left his position as manager. After surviving a stabbing incident at a Manchester nightclub in November 2006 which left him with wounds to his back, hand and stomach, he wound down his professional career with spells at Barnsley, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.

Wallwork’s fall from grace was complete in 2011 when he was charged with concealing criminal property in connection with offences relating to stolen cars. He was jailed for 15 months in December 2011 after pleading guilty to three counts of handling stolen cars.

It was an unsavoury end to a controversial career where a player never quite fulfilled his potential talent.