West Brom afloat and set to take wing
Three defeats in a row might represent a crisis at some clubs but not at West Bromwich Albion, who will seek to halt their descent towards the relegation zone against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow in their own inimitable way.
Whatever the scoreline, it is never dull watching the Baggies. Manager Tony Mowbray insists his side has adapted to the demands of the division well, especially considering the club is still carrying players bought specifically for the Championship.
“I think we are doing a pretty good job of the Premier League,” Mowbray said. “No-one is getting depressed by the fact we have lost three on the bounce.
“It is water off a duck’s back because there are bigger and more illustrious clubs with more money than us and who have been in the League for a lot longer than us who are sitting there with five or six defeats behind them.
“We have just got to focus on the games we think we can win as we have done already this season. We have to go into the next game believing we can win.”
Only a few weeks ago, following victiories at Middlesborough and against Fulham, Albion were being lauded for their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign. That record is still intact and, if anything, improved performances have not been reflected by results.
Mowbray added: “We have probably played better in the last couple of games, particularly in the first half against Hull and the second half against Newcastle than when we beat Fulham and West Ham. We took a few more chances in those games and we won. Football is about fine margins.”
The one goal Albion have scored in their last three encounters could prove more important than it looks. It was Ishmael Miller’s first of the season and his manager hopes it will instil in him confidence for the future.
“It probably has played on his mind,” he said. “You go back to the Middlesbrough game when he had the opportunity to square the ball for a tap-in goal for a team-mate yet he was desperate to score himself.
“I think he has that inner belief now, he knows he can score in this league.
“He knows that the chances will come and he will start taking them. I am pretty sure he will miss some along the way, as all strikers do, but he has got to continue to get into the right areas.
“People tend to forget he is a young boy, basically. It is his first shot at the Premier League on a regular basis. He has got the attributes to be a big player in years to come but he has got to forge his own furrow now, get on with it and try to make his name in the game.
“I said to him today that when he is 25-26, he will have suffered these periods where he misses chances and then he will start taking them because he’s been there and will have experienced that moment where he is in front of the ‘keeper on his right side rather than his left side and knows what he has to do.
“If people want to judge him, then fine, but judge him on what he is, a 21-year-old in his first full season in the Premier League.”
Korean midfielder Kim Do Hoen could be ready tomorrow after recovering from medial ligament damage, sustained only a month ago at Middlesbrough. However, the Rovers clash will definitely come too soon for Filipe Teixeira and Abdoulaye Meite while Leon Barnett will also be missing. All are expected to return to full training on Monday.
A longer-term injury concern, namely Neil Clement, also received some good news following an operation on his right knee. The club’s current longest-serving player will shortly be able to begin his rehabilitation.
Blackburn have injury concerns of their own and are waiting on the fitness of Roque Santa Cruz and Stephen Warnock. The Paraguayan underwent a scan yesterday after limping out of the warm-up before the defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday night.