Saturday, 30 October 2010

Friends Reunited

It is a rare event when a team is confronted by 3 former players in the same team, however on Saturday Fulham fielded ex Baggies Kamara, Gera and Greening. These players shared much of Albion's recent history and in many ways represented everything that was good and bad about the Robson and Mowbray years.

Kamara was given a mixed reception whereas Gera and Greening were greeted by warm applause which reflects the affection they are remembered with by the Hawthorns faithful.

The new and improved version of the Baggies run out comfortable winners handing out a footballing lesson to the old boys that was not adequately reflected in a 2:1 score line.

The return of the ex-Baggies reminded me of May 2007, which was a watershed for a generation of Albion players. Following a dismal relegation and poor start the squad assembled by Robson was taken over by Tony Mowbray who guided the inconsistent and increasingly disparate bunch to a play-off final where they blew it losing to a workman like Derby County.

The following summer there was a mass exodus and subsequent promotions and relegation has resulted in a dramatic turnover players. In the three and a half years since that sad day at Wembley only Dean Kiely remains at the club.  

Many of the players who thought they were too good for the Championship are now back there and few have covered themselves in glory since their departure 

Paul Robinson  Should have formed part of the exodus in summer 2007 made it abundantly clear that he wanted away telling anyone in earshot  in the tunnel at Wembley that he wanted out. A number of rumoured moves fell through and he played a vital role in the following promotion. Eventually got a move to the mighty Bolton. I was not one of the supporters who gave him generous applause when he returned with his new club.

Curtis Davies Was the stand out defender at the club, despite the shambolic relegation of the previous year had a growing reputation as one of the best young centre backs in the country. Refused to play in the opening fixture prior to getting his £8m move to the Villa. He has not enjoyed the best of luck with injuries and now finds himself in the last year of his Villa contract on loan at Leicester.

Jonathan Greening Blossomed the following season but wouldn't stick with the club following relegation moved onto Fulham for a bit over £4m not first choice at Craven Cottage.
Jason Koumas Sold to Wigan for £5.5m barely played now on loan in the Championship with Cardiff

Paul McShane Lured to Sunderland before he was ready for Premiership football now with Hull in the Championship

Diomansy Kamara Only ever had one good season in English football and Fulham bought him for £6m, seeing him on Saturday reminded me why I thought we got the better end of that deal.
Kevin Phillips His goals propelled us into the premier league the following season but quit to join Blues when we would only offer him a 1 year extension to his contract. Many Baggies fans cite this as reason why we failed to stay up the under Mowbray. They are wrong Phillips was deadly in the Championship but has been restricted to brief cameos for Blues since their promotion.
Zoltan Gera Let his contract run down and jumped ship to Fulham at the end of the following season maybe the best player to leave the Hawthorns from this generation and it is galling that he left for nothing.
Martin Albrechtsen Took a Bosman to Derby, once our record signing never looked comfortable in any of the positions he occupied always likely to drop a clanger now plying his trade in his native Denmark

Chris Perry Released by the club at the end of the season last played at Southampton
Darren Carter Will be remembered for a stunning goal against Arsenal and little else sold to PNE the following season and now on loan at Milwall
Richard Chaplow  For some unknown reason got dogs abuse from a section of the Hawthorns crowd. I thought he was a decent enough player and always gave 100% followed in Darren Carter's footsteps to PNE now on loan at Southampton.
Nathan Ellington Undoubted talent but only ever demonstrated it in glimpses sold for a staggering £3.25m to Watford subsequently loaned to Derby and now farmed out to Skoda Xanthi
Dean Kiely Moved into the goal keeping coach still registered as the emergency goal keeper the sole survivor
Neil Clement Retired from the game last season after a long battle with injury. The last link to a time when we were a mediocre Championship his arrival under Megson was the start of the Yo-Yo era
Nigel Quashie Sold to West Ham in the January transfer window. Achieved a rare feat of being relegated in two successive seasons with different clubs and came very close to making it a hat trick at West Ham
Pascal Zuberbuhler Almost hounded out of the Hawthorns and was replaced by Keily, currently with Fulham but not in their 25 man squad and although on their books since 2008 has yet to play a competitive game.
Robert Koren Tony Mowbray's 1st signing and a Hawthorns favorite but fell down the pecking order and released last summer and now plying his trade with Hull in the Championship.
John Hartson Never fit, a poor signing and typical of the haphazard approach of the Robson years. Although it would be churlish to blame the player for his lack of fitness given he was latter diagnosed with cancer, which is now thankfully in remission.
Russell Hoult Left the club after featuring in a home made porn video wearing nothing but a club polo shirt and a smile. Now Hereford's goalkeeping coach.
Steve Watson A player way past his prime by the time he was signed by the Baggies but still managed to return to score for Sheffield Wednesday the following season
Ronnie Wallwork Only played a handful of games before being loaned out to Barnsley following Tony Mowbray's arrival at the club no surprise Ronnie being a defensive midfielder a breed of player that does not fit with Tony Mowbray's footballing philosophy (see below)

Sam Sodje Accident prone loanee last seen on trial at Sheffield Wednesday after brief flirtation with Greek football at Skoda Xanthi
Stuart Nicholson Promising youngster (capped at under 19 for England) played a handful of games and is now playing in Australia
Jared Hodgkiss Youngster who had limited chances and now plays for Forest Green
Sherjill MacDonald Signed on loan Mowbray always assured the fans he looked sharp in training and was given a permanent contract at the end of the season. The alleged sharpness in training never transferred onto the pitch and now playing in Belgium.
Junichi Inamoto Played in a few games at the start of the season before moving on to Galatasaray.

Tony Mowbray took us up the following season playing brilliant football. Then he buggered off to Celtic following our relegation which many attribute in no small part to his dogged determination to stick to his philosophy even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was not working. Amazingly the fans stuck with him to the end and were rewarded with a huge slap in the face.

Sacked by Celtic following a woeful run of results and he has now pitched up at 'Boro and is spouting Utopian football and talking about the Spanish national side. I note that he has just lost his first game in charge and I fear lessons have not been learnt.

Comparing where the club is today under RDM and May 2007 it is amazing how fundamentally the landscape has changed. Our 2nd string beat Leicester 1:4 during the week many of the of the class of 2007 would not have made into that side and only Gera might really improve the current squad.

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