Can Steve Bruce Turn Things Around and Achieve Promotion at the Hawthorns?
To say that the start of the new Championship campaign has been a disappointment for the Baggies would be an understatement. At the start of the season, oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free tips on English football, had made West Brom one of the favourites to achieve promotion back to the Premier League. But following six draws in their first eight games, they currently languish down in 16th in the table, below all three newly promoted sides Sunderland, Sunderland and Wigan Athletic — who the Albion recently drew with on August 30th.
The poor results and performances have only added to the pressure on Steve Bruce’s shoulders. Four defeats in his first five matches following his appointment on 4th February immediately turned the heat up on the former Newcastle boss’. And while his sides form did pick up somewhat toward the end of last term, they finished down in 10th, eight points off the playoffs, which was expected as a minimum at the start of last term. The start to this campaign has only worsened matters.
Excitement was high in the West Midlands throughout the summer. The arrivals of Championship stalwarts such as Jed Wallace and John Swift were signings that improved the current playing staff at the club. Former Crystal Palace and Liverpool defender Martin Kelly — who has previously capped by England — was also seen to be a solid acquisition. Those additions haven’t transpired into results however.
Admittedly, some of the Baggies’ opponents this term have been difficult. They’ve travelled to Middlesbrough and also hosted two of last seasons relegated Premier League teams, Watford and Burnley. All three of those games ended as stalemates. A problem that Steve Bruce must address however is falling behind. In six of their eight fixtures so far this season, they have fallen behind early on, and as a result have been chasing the game.
One thing that cannot be questioned however, is their fighting spirit. In five of said games, they have battled back to secure a point. They found themselves 2-0 down after just half an hour away at Huddersfield earlier in the season, before Jed Wallace’s double ensured that they left West Yorkshire with a draw. They have also fought back away at Wigan and in those home fixtures against Middlesbrough, Watford and Burnley — where debutant Brandon Thomas-Asante scored a 98th minute equaliser.
Will there be an upturn in form?
The years EFL Championship looks more competitive than ever before. The likes of Norwich City, Burnley, Watford, and Sheffield United are tbe early favourites for the title, but outside of those four, it truly feels like anyone can beat anyone. Take a look at Reading for example. Last month, they were thumped 4-0 away at Rotherham, and immediately they went and beat table toppers Blackburn Rovers 3-0 four days later. Before the campaign, the Royals were favourites for the drop, but they’re flying high in third.
That could be good news for Steve Bruce’s Baggies. They’re currently unbeaten in their last five league games, four of which were draws. Their next fixture — providing it goes ahead following the passing of Her Majesty, Elizabeth II — will be a local derby against bitter rivals Birmingham City. The Blues are currently outside of the drop zone on goal difference and the fixture represents a huge chance for the hosts to bag three points which would fire them up the table.
Further winnable fixtures against the likes of Swansea City, Preston North End, and Luton Town are all on the horizon. If Bruce can find a way to stop falling behind early on in the match and thus convert those draws into wins, who knows what position they will be in in a months time. By the time the Championship campaign halts to accommodate the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, these past few weeks could be a distant memory.
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