We had that wonderful pair of Boro supporters of a certain age recently – one remembered seeing a 3-0 victory over Leeds on Boxing Day, 1946 – but today is the turn of youth. Matthew Evans*, 18, an aspiring journalist, is another of Monsieur Salut’s colleagues over at the ESPN site where he writes the West Bromwich Albion blog. He shares our enthusiasm for Kevin Phillips, loves the football he’s seeing from his team and tries to imagine how that sometime WBA supporter John McEnroe might remonstrate with referees if he were a regular at the Hawthorns …
Salut! Sunderland: West Brom are flying. You’ve had a succession of good seasons under different managers. What is the recipe for your success?
Our managerial appointments and technical director Dan Ashworth. Ashworth and his scouting network are superb, bringing in players like Mulumbu, Long, Olsson and Odemwingie on low fees. He has also brought continuity to our managerial appointments-Tony Mowbray brought us back to the style of football we are accustomed to, Roberto Di Matteo continued that and then Roy Hodgson gave us the shape and discipline we needed to establish ourselves. Steve Clarke is now mixing the best parts of all three of these
Did going down help?
Obviously we’d have preferred to have just stayed up consistently but going down has helped the club reach the point where it had the resources and know-how to establish ourselves in the Premier League.
And how far, realistically, can you go – or is it still a question of clocking up the points to ensure survival even if it goes wrong after Christmas?
It would be unrealistic of me to say we can stay in this position, that is highly unlikely. The sooner we get to 40 points the better, I believe somewhere from 6th-8th is an optimistic yet realistic prediction on current form. But I would settle for any place in the top 10.
You realise how badly we need points (even if the Fulham win has made that a less necessary statement). You know how well you often do against us. Are we easy meat for this game?
I don’t think so, no. Any away game in the Premier League is difficult to bring out one of the old clichés, but I genuinely think this is a tough game for us. A good recent record doesn’t really count for much but it would be very nice if we could continue it!
The two Kevins – Phillips and Kilbane – are among the players common to our clubs. Who sticks out for you and why?
The first man you mentioned, Kevin Phillips. I think yourselves and Albion were the two clubs who got the best out of him. He is the best finisher I have seen in my time supporting West Brom, some of the goals he scored were unreal.
Do you have any special memories – good, bad or amusing – of past encounters?
Last season’s win at the Hawthorns was a good moment for me, we’d been poor all season at home but that day we were absolutely superb. My main memory is rather amusing now I think about it. It was the season Tony Mowbray was in charge and we lost 4-0 at the Stadium of Light. I’d decided to get text updates to my phone for that game as I wasn’t going or near a TV/Computer but switched them off 20 minutes in when we were already 2 or 3 down!
And what is your impression of SAFC – the club, its fans, the region etc?
I’ve not been a huge fan of your last two managers, Bruce and O’Neill, but I admire quite a few of your players, in particular Sessegnon who I thought was your best player the whole of last season. I’ve always liked your fans, you don’t seem to carry that air of arrogance that your dear neighbours tend to have about being a “big club”. And you always bring good, loud numbers to the Hawthorns.
Highs and lows of supporting WBA?
Highs would be the first promotion season under Gary Megson and the Great Escape but more recently I would say this season has been fantastic thus far, whilst beating Wolves 5-1 away from home last year was everything a fan dreams of. Lows would be the complete surrender in our 2nd season under Bryan Robson and the two defeats at Wembley in the play off final and FA cup semi finals.
Who are the greatest players you have seen in your colours – or wish you’d seen if before your time – and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Like I said earlier, Kevin Phillips is the best finisher I have seen at West Brom whilst Igor Balis will always hold a special place in my heart for scoring the penalty that ensured promotion was in our hands. Of the current crop, it has been a joy to watch Peter Odemwingie these past three seasons whilst Shane Long is fast becoming my favourite player. I’m quite young so a lot of our best players were before my time, I’d have loved to have seen Bryan Robson as a player as well as Jeff Astle and Laurie Cunningham.
What do you make of Goran Ivanisevic and, to a lesser extent, John McEnroe’s fondness for the Baggies (
It’s a tad surreal really. It’s a shame McEnroe didn’t play in this era of tennis where prize money was larger because we could do with some investment. I can’t imagine what McEnroe would be like as a fan in the ground. With some of the current refereeing, you cannot be serious would be heard a lot.
Name the top four this season in order, and the bottom three.
Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Everton. Bottom 3; Southampton, QPR, Aston Villa
Who will win the major trophies and where will each of our clubs finish, assuming not mentioned in the last response?
Arsenal to win the Capital One Club, Dortmund the Champions League and West Brom the FA Cup! I think we will finish 8th, Sunderland around 11th.
See Monsieur Salut’s contributions to the ESPN Soccernet pages: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/610?cc=5739
Which form of cheating most annoys you and can it be stamped out?
Diving and in particular Luis Suarez. And I don’t think it can be stamped out unfortunately.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Matthew Evans on Matthew Evans:
I’m 18 and a first year student at university studying journalism, I currently write the West Brom blog for ESPN FC as Colin does for Sunderland whilst I also do a lot of odd jobs when home during the summer to make my money – thus can’t afford the trip to Sunderland! I support West Brom because of my Dad and godfather who are both West Brom fans, my Dad’s passion for it has really re-kindled over the past 5 or so years but not the point where he will come to away games with me. I’ve supported Albion since I’ve known what football is, my first season ticket would have been the 2008/9 season under Tony Mowbray where we were relegated…again.
Interview: Colin Randall