The second automatic promotion from the mires of the Championship to the hallowed throngs of the Premier League is the “Baggies” of West Bromwich Albion. West Brom is no stranger to the Premier League and top-level competitions. They’ve spent over 80 seasons in England’s top promotion; winning a title in 1920 along with 5 FA cup wins. They’ll look to keep their spot in the premiership and regain some accolades of previous squads.
West Bromwich Albion Promotion Preview
The History of West Bromwich
West Brom’s legacy and the origin story of English football are intertwined. The Baggies were one of the first 12 professional soccer teams in the world. In 1878 they debuted in the Football League. The club has enjoyed tremendous successes, but in more recent history they’ve struggled just to stay in the premiership. Their last trophy was a FA title but that was in 1968 over 50 years ago. This is the fourth promotion for West Brom in the 21st century with their most successful season being only good enough for an eighth-place finish when they were led by Romelu Lukaku. A dynamite talent to be sure, but the club only managed to hold onto his contract for one lone season.
The Squad Today
The team in navy and white is a diverse collection of rising talent, overlooked contributors, and even a possible future Premier League superstar. Their squad consists of key players such as the forward tandem of Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu, Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, and Midfielder Matheus Pereira.
Austin and Robson-Kanu
The dynamic duo of Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu is a tag team that could potentially give defenses some real trouble as both players of the Premier League. Some hardcore and longtime fans of British soccer might remember Austin from his QPR days. Queens Park Rangers finished dead last in the league but Austin recorded an impressive 18 goals in the 2014-2015 campaign. Previous to joining West Brom the Englishman played four seasons for Southampton where he scored 16 goals but struggled to get in the lineup, never starting more than 11 matches as the striker in any year.
Robson-Kanu has also been up with two different clubs: Reading and his current club West Brom. The Welshman scored 7 goals for Reading in 2012-2013 but after their 19th place finish and a relegation Reading still hasn’t recovered from. it would be another 4 years before he appeared on the pitch for West Brom and returned to the Premier League in 2016. Now 31 Robson-Kanu hopes he and Austin have enough firepower to inspire their squad to a possible top finish. In the Championship both players netted 10 times each, leading the team.
For any team to be consistent and more importantly, consistently good there may be no more important role than the goalkeeper. Sam Johnstone has been a solid brick wall in the Championship. In six seasons of experience split between Yeovil Town, Doncaster, Preston North End, Aston Villa, and of course West Brom, Johnstone has saved over 500 shots and had a clean sheet in nearly a third of all competitions.
Johnstone was one win away from promotion in 2018 amidst his best season ever. Playing for Aston Villa he had a staggering amount of clean sheets, 20 in total. He was in top form heading into the final against Fulham. He only conceded one goal but it would be the difference in the game despite Villa playing with a man advantage for close to 25 minutes to close the game. His move to Albionon Johnstone was a large part of what helped secure automatic promotion for the club. He started every game for West Brom for the past two years.
There is an ingredient that has been absent from West Brom for a very long time: a superstar. If the club has any aspirations to finish in the top half Matheus Pereira needs to become that for his squad. He has been praised by many as having the passing ability of Mesut Ozil while also possessing the rare dribbling ability comparable to that of his countrymen Neymar.
The hype is not misplaced, or overdramatized. Matheus Pereira is the real deal. Do yourself a favor, watch a highlight compilation of this young Brazilian. His vision and instincts are enough to leave even the most seasoned fan in shock. If there is an opening for a pass or even a momentary hesitation by a good defender Pereira will exploit it. At 24 and under contract for the next four years after recently signing an extension the future looks very bright indeed for West Brom Albion.