‘West Brom could surprise a few’ Our verdict on Slaven Bilic’s Albion recovery plan
The roar of the Hawthorns crowd on that memorable yet ultimately fatal night against Aston Villa may well have passed.
But come August you can guarantee the famous old ground will be buzzing again, eagerly anticipating the new adventure under Slaven Bilic, and desperately hoping for brighter times.
Expectation levels may have dropped, and only a significant change to the sobering summer transfer plans will reverse them.
But try telling West Bromwich Albion fans that they should settle for anything other than a push for the top six and you’d be heckled from Sandwell to Stourbridge.
I actually think last season’s play-off semi-finalists will surprise a few people.
Not so much those on the outside looking in as Albion tick all the boxes for another crack a promotion – third-favourites with the bookies, play-off semi-finalists last season, eight years in the Premier League before that, and with a decent manager now at the helm.
But more so the regulars who are predicting mediocrity in the times ahead.
Aside from in the play-off semi-final where fans showed what a hostile place The Hawthorns can be for visiting teams once again, there hasn’t been much to shout about.
Tony Pulis sucked the life out of the Brummie Road and the less said about Alan Pardew the better.
When club hero Darren Moore took over, brighter times were expected but he was soon sent on his way – a decision that split opinion in the stands.
Interim boss Jimmy Shan deserves credit for the way he handled his time in the spotlight. Six home wins on the spin is quite an achievement given Albion were struggling on home soil prior to Moore’s dismissal.
But the question still remains: Would Albion have won promotion if a ready-made replacement had been lined up?
The frustrating chain of events have created an unsavoury disconnect in recent times.
And missing out on a permanent move for Dwight Gayle – last season’s star performer who is deemed ‘too expensive’ – has only fuelled the fire.
Appointing Bilic is a step in the right direction, though. A big personality with a big heart – the Croatian will be well-received in the Midlands that’s for sure.
The past will quickly be forgotten if the big man gets the ball rolling in August.
Supporters now need to focus on replicating the atmosphere at home games that sent shockwaves across the country when Villa were in town back in May.
But to do that, the club must give them something to shout about.
Bilic is the start, and the financial backing will hopefully follow.
Supporters understand the need for cutbacks and recognise that losing Craig Dawson and Jay Rodriguez is now a very real possibility.
It’s how they replace the departed and reshape a team requiring major surgery that now really matters.
Albion must place themselves at the top of the queue for loan signings from the Premier League. Be that club who offers a greater incentive to players because it could be the difference.
They must also have a clear plan in place and allow technical director Luke Dowling to work to his strengths.
Bilic must be given the type of players he needs to form a team reflective of his style.
And hopefully Dowling will have one eye on the future when new recruits come through the door because this is the time to restructure – not 12 months down the line.
A two-year plan is needed because, at this stage, next season could throw up any outcome.
We could well see the tightest Championship in years because predicting a winner right now is almost impossible.
Albion can’t focus on those around them, though. This is the time to get their own house in order.
And with a careful and considered plan, coupled with clever recruitment and a sprinkling of much-needed luck, it might not be long before we see the Albion fans bouncing again.