Ian Hart: Two huge games have whet the appetite
While the whole Premier League experience is being embraced by the Albion faithful, when the fixtures came out back in June the end of November certainly whetted the footballing taste buds.
A trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United, arguably one of the biggest clubs in the world, was always going to be one of the highlights of the season.
As the Albion’s campaign has unfolded, and a clear pattern has emerged, Saturday’s journey up the M6 becomes more intriguing. Regardless of what his detractors say, Chris Hughton is right in how he sets the Albion up for certain games.
As other club’s results have indicated, there are a plethora of potential hidings in the Premier League, Hughton sets up with the intention of not shipping a hatful of goals.
Given Jose Mourinho’s willingness to ‘park the bus’ with United on occasions, Liverpool away a case in point, I wonder how he will react at 5pm this Saturday if the Albion go to The Theatre of Dreams and do the same – and in the process come away with a point?
Win, lose or draw in Manchester its ‘top of the bill’ time on Tuesday as local rivals Crystal Palace arrive at the Amex.
I say local rivals, because that is what they are. Recently on holiday I was having a drink with a London-based football fan who said he didn’t get the whole ‘M23 rivalry’ thing, stating that he thought Palace’s rivals were actually Millwall.
The rivalry, despite only going back 40 years or so is fierce, and burns deep. Like everyone else, I don’t like it when the Albion lose any competitive game, but I freely admit that I simply hate it when we lose to Palace.
The 5-0 drubbing at Selhurst Park in October, 2002, is unfortunately a memory that can never be erased. Thankfully to counteract that, there have been numerous other results in the Albion’s favour.
Palace’s horrendous league form this season has been well documented, and while they originally set out to play an ambitious and go-ahead type of football under Frank De Boer, that clearly didn’t work out. The Dutchman won the ‘sack race’ and they went for the established option of Roy Hodgson.
While he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and memories of the Iceland debacle will live as long as the Selhurst 5-0, he is a proper football man and in his time got the best out of both Fulham and West Brom in the top flight.
With Palace’s hapless form, there was always going to the danger they would ‘come good’ away from home next Tuesday at the Amex. Almost every Albion fan I’ve spoken to in the past few weeks has alluded to this fact and while supporting the Albion, you have to expect the unexpected.
Prediction-wise, both my heart and my head says we can come back from the north on Saturday night with a point, and I’m very much looking forward to Jose spitting feathers on MOTD.
As for Tuesday, yes football is awash with banana skins and setbacks when you least expect them. But despite some defensive frailties against Stoke on Monday, I really think we will have too much for them, so it’s going to be a resounding 3-0 win for the Albion.