Tag Archives: West Bromwich Albion

Premier League Files: Jason Roberts

Premier League Career: West Bromwich Albion (2002-2003), Portsmouth (2003), Wigan Athletic (2005-2006), Blackburn Rovers (2006-2011), Reading (2012)

Although his story isn’t quite as remarkable as the journey that Jamie Vardy has been on, Jason Roberts was another example of someone bouncing back after early disappointments and rejections. His longest Premier League spell was with Blackburn Rovers but the most fruitful spell of his career was probably with Wigan Athletic.

Roberts spent time in the youth academies at several leading professional clubs including Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. He was not retained by either side. As a youngster, these knockbacks can be devastating to a player’s career and mental approach. Despite these blows, Roberts was determined to make the big time, even if that meant taking an alternative route towards the top-flight.

A boyhood Celtic fan, he dropped into non-league football with Hayes and started to catch the eye at Bristol Rovers, scoring 38 goals in two seasons with the club from 1998 and 2000. With him and Nathan Ellington in the team, Bristol Rovers challenged for promotion to Division One but couldn’t quite complete the job. So, Roberts decided to move on to a higher level himself. He handed in a transfer request and joined West Bromwich Albion in July 2000.

Two seasons later, he was a Premier League player. Unfortunately, West Brom’s promotion campaign in 2001-2002 was a frustrating one for Jason. He had horrendous luck with injury, breaking the same metatarsal bone three times. This restricted him to just 12 league appearances. Nevertheless, he still chipped in with seven goals. Roberts’ first Premier League goal came at Highbury in a 5-2 defeat to Arsenal but he would only add another two to his tally as the Baggies’ Premier League stay was brief. Having experienced the taste of Premier League football, Roberts wanted more and would get it at Wigan Athletic a few years later.

There was a brief loan spell at Portsmouth during the first few months of the 2003-2004 campaign and another Premier League goal to his tally during his five months at Fratton Park at home to Everton. West Brom then sold him to Wigan in January 2004 for a fee of £1.4 million. His impact was instant, scoring inside 35 seconds of his debut in a victory over Preston North End. He struck 21 times in Wigan’s successful promotion campaign of 2004-2005 which meant another Premier League adventure for the Grenadian.

Roberts’ best season of his career was undoubtedly Wigan’s maiden season in the Premier League. He will always be in the club’s record books for scoring their first goal in the top-flight, netting from the penalty spot after only two minutes of a 1-0 victory over Sunderland. That came in Wigan’s third match of the season. Later in the season, he scored a dramatic late goal at Highbury which ensured the Latics knocked Arsenal out of the Carling Cup semi-finals and took Wigan to their first-ever major cup final. He started the showpiece event at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium but it ended in a 4-0 defeat to favourites Manchester United. He scored eight Premier League goals which was his best return at this level.

Unfortunately for Wigan, he couldn’t agree on a new contract and was sold to Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2006. He made over 150 appearances for Blackburn, scoring 28 goals and experienced European football for the first time. Away from the field of play, he was doing fine work. Whilst at Blackburn, he established the Jason Roberts Foundation, with the aim to provide a range of sporting opportunities for children and young people in the UK and Grenada. This meant he received an MBE in the 2010 New Years’ Honours List.

He joined Reading in 2012 and got one final experience of Premier League football. A hip injury forced him off in a defeat to Southampton in December 2012 and that was the last time he would play football. After surgery wasn’t successful, he announced his retirement from the game in March 2014. Today, he is now a regular pundit for BBC Sport on programmes including Final Score and Football Focus.

Jason Roberts did fine work away from the pitch and was a decent player who graced several clubs in his career. He was always an attacking threat and will be fondly remembered by Wigan Athletic for his heroics in their maiden Premier League campaign.

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Memorable Matches: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion (December 2014)

Goalscorers: Joleon Lescott 10, Silvestre Varela 20, Charlie Austin 24 PEN, 48, 86

Teams:

Queens Park Rangers: Robert Green, Yun Suk-Young (Clint Hill 30), Nedum Onuoha, Steven Caulker, Richard Dunne, Joey Barton, Leroy Fer, Karl Henry, Charlie Austin, Eduardo Vargas (Junior Hoilett 67), Bobby Zamora (Niko Kranjcar 80)

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Sebastien Pocognoli (Cristian Gamboa 90), Andre Wisdom, Joleon Lescott, Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans, Craig Gardner, James Morrison, Stephane Sessegnon, Silvestre Varela, Brown Ideye (Saido Berahino 69)

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 17,560

Going into this pre-Christmas match, both Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion were in the need for three points. Harry Redknapp’s side had failed to take a single point away from home but were in fine form at Loftus Road, taking 10 points from their last four home encounters. West Brom had just beaten Aston Villa in their last match to ease the pressure slightly on their head coach, Alan Irvine.

It was the visitors’ who made the better start and completely dominated in the first 20 minutes. Craig Gardner and Brown Ideye both came close to opening the scoring but it was a defender who would ultimately break the deadlock. Sebastien Pocognoli’s corner was flicked on by Stephane Sessegnon and Joleon Lescott headed home. Lescott was a summer arrival from Manchester City and this was his first goal since September 2012.

1-0 after 10 minutes became 2-0 after 20 minutes. Silvestre Varela linked up with Sessegnon, playing some smart one-touch football and he finished coolly inside the penalty area. Varela was on-loan from FC Porto and had struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. It was his first goal for the club and ultimately, his only goal in the Baggies’ colours.

Redknapp’s side needed a swift response and it arrived via the penalty spot just four minutes later. Referee Craig Pawson punished James Morrison for tugging away at Leroy Fer’s shirt. Charlie Austin, back from suspension after seeing red in QPR’s last home match against Burnley, made no mistake from the penalty spot. This goal meant he had scored in each of QPR’s last five home matches.

Despite getting back into the game, QPR were still second-best for the remainder of the first half. Green’s agility levels were tested on two further occasions before the interval to deny Gardner from a deflected free-kick and a dangerous drive from the impressive Sessegnon. West Brom’s failure to take their chances would cost them dearly in the second half.

Less than three minutes into the second half, Joey Barton’s corner was headed onto the crossbar by Richard Dunne. The ball fell perfectly to Austin, who bundled home a loose ball to level the scores. A winning goal always looked likely for either side and with Austin on the pitch, QPR could not be discounted. Four minutes from time, he climbed highest to head home another Barton corner. It was his ninth goal in the last seven matches and his maiden hat-trick in the Premier League.

The result lifted QPR out of the bottom three and into 15th spot, level on points with their opponents. Irvine lasted another two matches before being sacked. Tony Pulis succeeded him and steered Albion clear of any relegation danger. Despite the goals of Austin, QPR were relegated before the end of the season. This was their day though and one of the best comebacks of the 2014-2015 season.

Premier League Files: Geoff Horsfield

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2002-2003), West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006)

Geoff Horsfield was one of those players who would always give a workmanlike effort. His hold-up ability and talent to back into defenders allowed his strike partners to get onto the end of decent opportunities. Horsfield’s career has been through a varied rollercoaster of emotions; from the joy of helping Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 to a battle with testicular cancer six years later.

His Football League breakthrough came as a teenager at the now-defunct club Scarborough before being released in 1994. Geoff had to earn his living then in part-time football with the likes of Witton Albion and Halifax Town whilst holding down a job as a bricklayer. A serious knee injury whilst in the non-league briefly threatened his longer-term football career but Horsfield would never let adversity get him down. After helping Halifax return to the Football League, he joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998 who were managed at the time by Kevin Keegan.

There was an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. Fulham won the Second Division title by 14 points and Horsfield was voted into the division’s PFA Team of the Year after chipping in with 15 goals from 28 games. Before leaving to take the England job, Keegan made a bold prediction: “Geoff’s your old-fashioned centre forward and we love him. He will score goals in the next divisions. He chases a lot of lost causes.”

Keegan’s successor, Jean Tigana disagreed and sold him to Birmingham City in July 2000. Horsfield proved the Frenchman wrong, featuring in the 2001 League Cup final and scoring the equaliser in the 2002 First Division playoff final against Norwich City which saw Birmingham promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

He will always be fondly remembered by Birmingham supporters for his contributions in the two Second City derbies in the 2002-2003 campaign. He capitalised on a dreadful mistake from Alpay to score the third goal in Birmingham’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at St Andrews. That was his first goal at this level. Six months later, he beat Peter Enckelman to a loose ball to score the second goal in a 2-0 win at Villa Park to ensure a famous league double for Birmingham as they finished a creditable 13th in their first season at this level.

However, he was slightly frustrated about his lack of starts in the top-flight and moved on in the closing days of the 2003 August transfer window, eventually to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion via a brief unhappy spell at Wigan Athletic.

On signing Horsfield, Gary Megson suggested: “I actually went out on a bit of a limb by saying to the chairman that I think [Horsfield] would get us promoted … I think he just gave us that little something that was missing in getting hold of the ball, a little bit of cuteness up the front that enabled us to bring other people into the game.”

Megson was correct with his view. Geoff scored seven times and helped West Brom back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. 2004-2005 would see him have another go at the top-flight.

It started slowly for both player and club but Geoff became a Baggies’ cult figure forever with his impact on ‘Survival Sunday’ in 2005. Going into the final day of the season, none of the bottom four were safe and two points adrift of safety, it was West Brom who were the bookies’ favourites for relegation. By now, Bryan Robson was in charge and he left Horsfield on the bench for the crucial match against Portsmouth. The scoreline was 0-0 when Robson decided early in the second half to bring Horsfield on.

Within seconds, he had scored with his first touch to haul West Brom ahead and out of the bottom three. Kieran Richardson added a second goal, set-up by Horsfield and when Crystal Palace conceded late at Charlton, the party could begin. West Bromwich Albion survived and Horsfield later admitted this was the best achievement of his football career, despite the promotions he’d achieved with Halifax, Fulham and Birmingham.

He started 2005-2006 with this confidence, scoring twice against Portsmouth again and adding another against former club Birmingham but that was to be his last goal in the Premier League. He was loaned to Sheffield United in February 2006 and although he was a member of the Blades’ Premier League squad of 2006-2007, he never played for the club at the highest level.

In October 2008, Geoff revealed he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was advised to retire from football. After successful treatment, he returned to the game with spells at Lincoln City and Port Vale. After doing some coaching with the latter, he walked away from football completely in May 2012 to pursue his business interests.

He was a no-nonsense footballer and there is no doubt that Geoff Horsfield left his mark on the Premier League chapters of both Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.

The Managers: Gary Megson

Premier League Clubs Managed: Norwich City (1995), West Bromwich Albion (2002-2003, 2004), Bolton Wanderers (2007-2009)

Abrasive is one of the best words to sum up Gary Megson’s management career. If he liked you, you’d play pretty well and frequently too. If you fell out with him, Megson could be a nightmare for your career. He was never the fans’ popular choice at any of the clubs he managed which probably explains why his best finish in top-flight management is 13th with Bolton Wanderers in 2008-2009.

In his playing days, Megson was a tough-tackling, committed defensive midfielder who would play for nine different clubs. The best time of his career was during two spells with Sheffield Wednesday in the mid-1980s, scoring 25 goals in 233 appearances. His worst spell was a five-month period at Nottingham Forest where he didn’t make a single appearance and the late Brian Clough described him as “he couldn’t trap a bag of cement!” Ouch!

Brief fling at Norwich

Megson featured in the first three seasons of the Premier League as a player at Norwich City and when Mike Walker abruptly quit for Everton in January 1994, Megson combined his playing role with a coaching position, working as assistant manager to John Deehan. Towards the end of the 1994-1995 season, Deehan walked away from the job and under-fire owner Robert Chase elected to promote Megson into the hottest of hotseats.

He had five games to try and save the club’s Premier League status but collected just a single point from those matches. Norwich’s relegation to Division One was confirmed on the final Saturday of the season at Elland Road. They collected just 11 points after Christmas which saw them plummet from seventh at the midway point to relegation.

Megson did leave Carrow Road that summer to resume his playing career at Lincoln City and Shrewsbury Town but was back at Norwich before 1995 was out. Martin O’Neill had left for Leicester City but there was to be no magic spark for Megson. The Canaries’ finished a dreary 15th in Division One and he left that summer (this time for good), to seek further opportunities in management.

Beating the odds with the Baggies

Management spells followed at Blackpool, Stockport County and Stoke City. There were good sequences with all these sides but Megson just missed out on possible playoff positions. In March 2000, he was hired by West Bromwich Albion. He preserved their second-tier status against all odds and then spearheaded the Baggies’ to first a playoff finish in 2001, before promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 16 years in 2001-2002. In the closing weeks, Albion had obliterated an 11-point disadvantage on their Black Country rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers to finish runners-up to Manchester City. An unexpected Premier League chance was there for the supporters to savour.

There were no surprises though that relegation followed a year later. Just six wins from 38 matches were achieved and there were to be no wins on home soil from the end of November onwards. In many games, Albion competed well enough but they simply didn’t have the ultimate quality to stay up. Megson mounted a successful promotion campaign the following season but by the summer of 2004, the relationship between the manager and his owner Jeremy Peace had become strained.

It became known that some players weren’t keen on playing for Megson. In 2004, ex-Coventry City forward Darren Huckerby had a choice of joining either Norwich City or West Brom. He chose the former and didn’t hold back either on criticising Megson’s coaching style when asked why he signed for Norwich. He said: “I told him I didn’t like the way he coached, I didn’t like the way he shouted at his players and didn’t like the way he treated seasoned professionals like 15-year-olds. I was just being honest with him. I said: “I’ve seen you on the sidelines and you look like a crazed animal.”

In September 2004, Megson’s job appeared to be under threat after a poor start to Albion’s Premier League return. A month later, he confirmed he would leave at the end of the season and the board decided this was a good reason to wield the axe. Three days after a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals Crystal Palace, Megson left the Hawthorns. He wouldn’t return to the Premier League until October 2007.

Never popular at Bolton

When appointed, the fans at the Reebok Stadium were not impressed with the choice. Megson had been hired despite having only been in charge for nine games and 41 days at Leicester City. He took over with Bolton in the bottom three, having amassed just five points from 10 matches under Sammy Lee’s difficult stint. There was early progress though, including a first home win in 30 years over champions Manchester United.

League form was still ropey in 2008 though. Star striker Nicolas Anelka was sold to Chelsea and no obvious replacement came in. In early April, Bolton slipped back into the bottom three but they rallied to take 11 points from their last five matches and therefore stayed up. It was Megson’s first survival as a Premier League manager.

2008-2009 was a progressive season. He spent £13.2 million on Johan Elmander and Fabrice Muamba in the summer transfer window and guided the club to eighth in the table by November 2008. That was good enough for Megson to claim his one and only Manager of the Month award. Although they dropped to 13th by the season’s end, relegation talk was never considered all season for the Trotters.

It was a different story in 2009-2010. Bolton led several matches but couldn’t close games out and by Christmas, they were in the dreaded drop zone. After throwing away a two-goal lead at home to Hull City to draw 2-2 with their rivals in distress, the board elected to sack Megson two days before 2009 drew to a close. His last management job was at Sheffield Wednesday which ended in February 2012 after a derby loss to Sheffield United.

After a lengthy spell out of the game, Megson returned to West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 2017, becoming Tony Pulis’ assistant manager at The Hawthorns. It is a new role and a new challenge for him after being the no.1 for such a long time.

The Managers: Tony Pulis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Stoke City (2008-2013), Crystal Palace (2013-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2015-PRESENT)

In 2018, Tony Pulis will celebrate his 60th birthday. The Welshman has become a specialist in stabilising Premier League teams. He gets the absolute maximum out of all of his players and whilst his teams might lack the overall superstar who will wow supporters, he will ensure his sides are tough to break down and specialise in their strengths to win football matches.

Pulis has attracted criticism from some of the modern day fans. Some feel his tactics are dull and make games to watch uninspiring. Sometimes, it is a fair point but if you asked fans of his current club West Bromwich Albion, you would want to survive in the Premier League. Survival is more important than substance and Pulis does this brilliantly.

He now been managing for the best part of 25 years and it took a while to reach the promise land with Stoke City in 2008. Since then, Tony has been a regular fixture in the Premier League managerial dugout.

Playing attempts

Like many before him, Pulis went into management after the end of his playing career. He spent 17 years kicking footballs rather than coaching footballers and being a defender, you can see why he always builds his teams from the back.

During his playing days, Pulis played for five teams in his career. He even spent one season playing abroad in Hong Kong for Happy Valley – one of the most successful clubs in the country with six domestic championships.

He began his playing career at Bristol Rovers and also featured for local club Newport County AFC, Gillingham and AFC Bournemouth. He would go on to manage the latter two clubs in his career and his break came soon than expected at Dean Court.

Filling Harry’s shoes

Coaching was always in Tony’s mind, even in his early playing career. He obtained his FA coaching badge at just 19, followed by his UEFA ‘A’ licence aged 21 – making him one of the youngest professional players ever to have obtained the qualification.

He wound down his playing time with Bournemouth, eventually taking the management role in 1992 when Harry Redknapp quit, becoming Billy Bonds’ no.2 at West Ham United. A couple of 17th-place finishes weren’t anything to write home about but he was up and running and his next stop was a more successful spell at Gillingham.

He managed them for four campaigns and turned them from relegation strugglers to promotion contenders. In 1999, he took Gillingham to the Division Two playoff final and a meeting with Manchester City at Wembley. What followed next was one of the most sensational playoff finals of all-time. It looked like Pulis was going to take Gillingham up. They dominated the game and eventually took the lead through Carl Asaba, before Robert Taylor doubled the lead. Then, Manchester City produced an unbelievable turnaround to level the game at 2-2, before winning the penalty shootout 3-1. City would go onto achieve back-to-back promotions. Pulis would be out of work just weeks later. A falling out with owner Paul Scally led to his sacking for a claim of gross misconduct. He would sue Scally later for unpaid bonuses which were eventually settled out of court.

Brief spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth going into the millennium didn’t work out and it wasn’t until 2002 until he seemed to have found a home which was with Stoke City. However, that wouldn’t be without dramas of its’ own.

Reaching the promise land eventually at Stoke

Tony took over a team struggling in the First Division in November 2002 and managed to grind out enough victories and points to survive relegation on the final day of the season. The loan signings of Mark Crossley and Ade Akinbiyi played a pivotal part in the Potters’ escaping the drop. Even to this day, Pulis claims this is one of his finest achievements in management.

An 11th-place finish followed in 2003-2004 but soon, relations soured between Pulis and the Icelandic owner of the club, Gunnar Gislason. Rows broke out over the club’s transfer business. Pulis was furious that his main forward, Akinbiyi was sold to Championship rivals Burnley and no proven replacement came into the club. Gislason wanted the Welshman to spread his wings and use the foreign market. It was never going to end well and he was sacked in June 2005. The official reason given was “failing to exploit the foreign transfer market.”

He went to Plymouth Argyle, who were also flying high as a Championship club and a 14th-place finish was an overachievement considering the club’s own restrained budgets and expectations. Although he enjoyed his time with the Pilgrims’, Pulis had unfinished business at Stoke and when a board takeover happened, speculation intensified that he would return to the Britannia Stadium.

Less than a year after leaving Stoke, he returned to the club as manager with Peter Coates as the new owner. He backed Pulis in the transfer market and Tony started to bring in very solid Championship players including Danny Higginbotham, Ricardo Fuller and Rory Delap. They were in the playoff shake-up for much of the 2006-2007 season but a draw on the final day against Queens Park Rangers meant they eventually finished in eighth spot. A more serious push followed in 2007-2008. Again, Pulis used the loan market to great effect, which included the arrival of Ryan Shawcross. On the final day of the campaign, Stoke’s draw with Leicester City was good enough to take them up to the Premier League for their first top-flight season in 23 years.

His Premier League break had finally arrived.

Finals and Europe visit the Britannia

Stoke immediately made the Britannia Stadium a feared place to come for opponents. Aston Villa, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were among the early casualties to come a cropper in Staffordshire. A poor Christmas programme dropped the club into the bottom three but the January signings of James Beattie and Matthew Etherington were brilliant bits of business that allowed the club to push clear of danger.

Despite starting 2008-2009 as a favourite for relegation, Pulis took the club to an impressive 12th-place finish, securing safety three games from the end of the season. In 2009-2010, there was more progress with a run to the FA Cup quarter-finals and an 11th-place finish in the league, two points better than the previous campaign.

The achievements kept coming for Tony and the club. In 2011, Stoke thrashed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals to reach an FA Cup final for the first time in their history. Although they lost 1-0 to Manchester City in the showpiece event, City’s guaranteed Champions League participation ensured Stoke a place in the UEFA Europa League for the 2011-2012 campaign.

As Europe beckoned, a stronger squad was required. The club’s transfer record was broken to sign the likes of Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch. Crouch’s £10million arrival meant that record had been broken for a fourth successive season. They advanced to the knockout rounds of the Europa League and only narrowly went out 2-0 on aggregate in the last 32 to former Spanish superpower Valencia.

However, despite all of this success and a strong bond with the club’s owners, Tony couldn’t break Stoke into the Premier League’s top 10. 11th in 2009-2010 remained the highest finish and as progress stagnated, he parted company with the club at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign. He took a six-month hiatus from football but was soon back to try and rescue Crystal Palace.

Reviving Palace and rejuvenating Albion

Pulis succeeded Ian Holloway in November 2013 to take over a Crystal Palace side that had won just twice and were bottom of the Premier League. It was going to be a tough job but early victories in his reign at home to West Ham United and Cardiff City suggested he could turn things around.

He exploited the January transfer market again and did some great business. Joe Ledley from Celtic, defender Scott Dann from Blackburn Rovers and Wayne Hennessey were among the five acquisitions he made. A run of five successive victories in April 2014 saw him take the Manager of the Month award and eventually, survival was comfortably achieved. To put it into context, no Palace manager had previously steered the club clear of relegation in the Premier League era. They finished 11th with 45 points and Pulis’ work was recognised. He was given the title of Premier League Manager of the Year.

However, his time at Selhurst Park would be short. Feeling he wasn’t being backed in the summer transfer market by the Palace board, he left by mutual consent just two days before the start of the 2014-2015 campaign. For the second successive season, Tony would spend the opening weeks away from the dugout.

He returned on New Years’ Day 2015 though, taking over as Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion after they dispensed with the services of Alan Irvine. There was an immediate response to his appointment. Darren Fletcher arrived from Manchester United to take over the captaincy and victories included a 3-0 win over champions Chelsea. West Brom finished 13th having looked like a serious relegation contender until Pulis’ arrival through the door at the Hawthorns.

In 2015, he broke West Brom’s transfer record to sign the nomadic Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon and also added Jonny Evans, James McClean and Rickie Lambert to the ranks. In 2015-2016, West Brom were in no relegation danger for much of the campaign but did finish a rather uninspiring 14th. The highlights of the campaign were home victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.

2016-2017 saw Pulis finally finish a season in the top 10 as a Premier League manager at the ninth attempt of asking. Matt Phillips, Hal Robson-Kanu and Nacer Chadli for a new club-record fee were among the new arrivals and West Brom started to become a more attractive side to watch. Their 2-1 victory in November 2016 at champions Leicester City was seen as a turning point in their season – a day when they outplayed and outclassed the champions.

There was an excellent 3-1 success over a dispirited Arsenal in March 2017 and for much of the campaign, West Brom were best of the rest, looking set for an eighth place finish. Unfortunately, form tailed off after a creditable point at Old Trafford and they slipped behind Southampton and AFC Bournemouth in the final week of the season. Nevertheless, it had been a very positive season for everyone connected with West Bromwich Albion.

Although club captain Fletcher departed for Stoke after talks broke down over a new contract, Pulis has had an outstanding summer transfer window. He brought in long-time target Jay Rodriguez from Southampton, young Scottish talent Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig and the loan signing of Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain. Two wins and a draw from the club’s first four matches of 2017-2018 hints that it could be another strong season at the Hawthorns.

Tony Pulis’ ability to keep struggling clubs away from the threats of relegation can’t be questioned. He might one of the rare breed of old-fashioned managers who prefers the long ball style of play. However, it has always worked for him and there is no need to change this, especially as he has a proud record of never being relegated as a player or manager. Having just extended his contract to stay at West Bromwich Albion until 2019, expect Tony Pulis to be around in the Premier League for some time to come.