West Brom hit the headlines last Saturday when they sacked manager Darren Moore following the 1-1 draw with Ipswich, despite being fourth in the table.
Chief executive Mark Jenkins said in a statement that it had been “an enormously difficult decision” but said “we have to place the club’s best interests at the forefront of our thinking and we must do everything we can to try to deliver the promotion we have targeted”.
The decision came with the Baggies nine points adrift of the top two places, in a campaign in which they have put everything into trying to win automatic promotion.
Their form has been totally opposite to ours in that they have the Championship’s third best away record but only its seventh best home record.
They were much lower in the home form table before this Wednesday, when caretaker-manager James Shan led them to a 3-0 win over Swansea – their first victory at The Hawthorns since Boxing Day.
West Brom have won 10 and drawn three of their 18 games on the road, while at home they have drawn seven and lost four of their 19 matches.
One of their strengths this season has been in finding the net and they are the division’s second highest scorers behind Norwich on 75, with an impressive 71 goals from 37 games.
A total of 41 of those have come at home – the joint highest-figure in the Championship and only one ahead of us.
This is the Baggies’ first season at this level since 2009/10, ending an eight-year stay in the Premier League – their longest spell in the division, although not their longest in the top flight.
In the previous decade, they spent their time alternating between the top two divisions on several occasions.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
James Shan is still likely to be in charge of West Brom at Griffin Park on Saturday.
The 40-year-old former academy coach has been with the Baggies since 2006 when he started with the under-sevens. He has worked his way up from there and became involved with the first team squad when Darren Moore asked him to step up from the under-23s near the end of last season.
He continued on the coaching staff this term, before being moved into the hotseat last weekend.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and West Brom have not met too often over the years, and this is only the second season in which we have been in the same division since 1949.
They did the double over us in our Division Three title-winning season in 1991/92.
The home match in the October – their last league game here before this Saturday – resulted in a 2-1 Baggies victory. They took the lead in the first half through Kwame Ampadu but Marcus Gayle equalised with a direct free-kick after the break, before Don Goodman snatched a late winner.
In the return, first half goals from Bob Taylor and Wayne Fereday were enough to give them the points.
Our paths next crossed in the two-legged first round of the Worthington Cup in 1998/99. Again West Brom, two divisions above us in what is now the Championship, struck twice in the first half of the Hawthorns first leg through Micky Evans and Lee Hughes, but Kevin Rapley kept us in the tie with an 89th-minute reply.
And we pulled off an upset in the second leg as goals in the last 35 minutes from Jamie Bates, Charlie Oatway and Lloyd Owusu gave us a 3-0 win on the night at Griffin Park and a 4-2 aggregate victory.
The Baggies gained revenge at the same stage of the competition, then called the Carling Cup, in 2003/04. They were again in the second tier, this time only one division above us, and the first round had switched to a one-legged affair
They took an early lead at The Hawthorns through Rob Hulse but just before half-time, Brentford goalkeeper Paul Smith was sent off. Substitute Alan Julian managed to keep West Brom at bay until the last 14 minutes, but then Bernt Haas, Hulse again and Scott Dobie saw the hosts to a 3-0 2in.
That was it until this season, when we met in a live Sky game on the first Monday evening in December. The Baggies dominated but could not score until the 77th minute when Harvey Barnes found the breakthrough, with what proved to be his last home goal for the club.
That looked to be that but the Bees had other ideas and deep into injury-time, Emiliano Marcondes crossed for Lewis MacLeod to head a dramatic equaliser to ensure that the game finished 1-1. Neither of the scorers that night will feature in Saturday’s return game.
BBC WM Sport’s West Brom reporter Rob Gurney tells us his views on Darren Moore’s sacking, analyses what missing out on promotion would mean to the Baggies and recalls some of his previous trips to Griffin Park.
Q – What do you think of the decision to sack Darren Moore?
A – From the outside looking in it looks a peculiar decision, but when you look a little bit closer it makes a degree of sense because certainly taking the last two games in isolation – Leeds, where they were comprehensively beaten 4-0, and the 1-1 draw with Ipswich, there was evidence that things were starting to come apart at the seams a little bit.
At Elland Road, Darren had the opportunity to change things to try to stop the flow from Leeds and didn’t, and then in the Ipswich game, they had some chances but were playing with a new system again or the system had gone back to three at the back. It looked like the players were confused with it to the extent where afterwards – without wishing to sound clever – I asked Darren what system he started the game with because it wasn’t that obvious watching from the gantry what system they were supposed to be playing.
Put that in the context of not having won any of the last six Championship home games and one win in the last nine overall at The Hawthorns (before Swansea), plus having slipped 11 points off top two (down to nine after Swansea) with automatic promotion looking a long shot.
The away form has been really good with wins in eight of the last nine away league games, but home matches are where the majority of your fans see you and if your last home win was on Boxing Day then notwithstanding being fourth in the table, questions are going to be asked really.
Q – Who do you think will be in charge on Saturday?
A – I said before the Swansea game that if the Baggies won then Jimmy Shan would stay in charge. He certainly has his hands full right now. As well as running the first team, he is a dad of three lads with the last of them born only last week!
Q – How big a blow would it be to the club if they fail to win promotion this season?
A – They have basically tailored everything on getting up this season in terms of money, although there are flex downs with wage bills because of relegation clauses being written into contracts. They have kept the vast majority of last season’s squad, although they lost Jonny Evans. There was interest in Jay Rodriguez and Craig Dawson but they decided to keep them and that kept the wage bill high. They supplemented the squad with six loans, although only five can be named in the matchday squad.
That is the route they have gone down and if they don’t go up, the perception is that there will be a firesale in the summer. Whoever the manager is next season if they are in the Championship will be working with a vastly different squad to the one that is there now. Jake Livermore, Dawson and Rodriguez would probably want to go as could Ahmed Hegazy, Kieran Gibbs and Matt Phillips. The list goes on, and with another six members of squad being the loan group, there could be a lot of changes.
Q – Opposite to Brentford who have been strong at home and weak away, the Baggies have been strong on the road but struggled at home – why do you think this is?
A – The way West Brom play away from home tends to kind of be essentially on the counter-attack, whereas at home they have been wedded to this system of trying to play out from the back all the time. Literally normally the two centre-halves will stand either side of the penalty area and wait for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to knock it to one of them. Opposing teams soon wise up to it and press high up. The alternative is for Johnstone to lob it to one of the full-backs, but inevitably 70% of the time it sails over their head straight into touch – and you can imagine the reaction of the fans.
This was former assistant Graeme Jones’s idea and this is where Darren Moore went wrong in placing far too much trust in him. Playing out from the back was what Belgium had done when Jones was their assistant manager, but the players at Albion are not Eden Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne and that’s essentially been the problem.
Playing away from home, the home teams tend to push on as they need to take the initiative, and Albion are quite good at hunting for ball away from home. If they win it back, it leaves gaps in behind for the likes of Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle and in the first half of the season, Harvey Barnes. He has been a massive miss since being recalled from loan by Leicester.
Q – How hard have the Baggies found it to adjust to the Championship after so long in the Premier League?
A – It took a while. They lost at home to Bolton on the opening day of the season and Darren Moore said that was a wake-up call for everybody. Albion can roll teams over but the fundamental problem has been that they have only won three games on the trot twice this season and the longest unbeaten run is only nine games with six wins and three draws.
That is not going to be good enough to get in top two come the end of the season and they are going to have to win at least seven of their final nine games, I think, to even have a squeak of derailing Leeds or Norwich now. That is massive ask for a group of players whose longest winning sequence has been three games.
Systems have been a large part of the season inasmuch as for the majority of the early part of the campaign, Graeme Jones essentially had them playing in a 3-4-1-2 formation. It wasn’t that way for the first two or three weeks, from memory. It began with Harvey Barnes as the one in behind front two and it worked to a degree, but again the players didn’t look defensively comfortable on the ball coming out of defence.
For a period they had three right-footers as the three centre-backs and the guy on the left was often Kyle Bartley and you do not need to be the world’s greatest coach to realise that if you press him high up the pitch he’s going to panic and that was becoming a problem. We lost 1-0 at Hull, before they went on their run, and were absolutely terrible and that was the first time really during the season where serious questions were starting to be asked about whether Darren Moore was going to work as manager.
He he changed it for the Leeds game at home, it went to 4-3-3 and that triggered the nine-game unbeaten run and they hammered Leeds 4-1 in a live TV game and then played that system until they lost at Blackburn on New Year’s Day. Then they played 4-3-3 all the time up to and including the return Leeds game, where they got turned over a couple of Fridays ago.
My perception is that Graeme Jones has gone back to him and said we need to go back to three at the back and we allegedly started the Ipswich match in 3-4-3. The players looked confused by it, and although Bartosz Bialkowski made a couple of good saves from Murphy in the second half, Ipswich dominated and Kayden Jackson should have won them the game.
Q – Have you been to Griffin Park before and if so, what memories do you have of your visit (s)?
A – I was at the FA Cup game against Walsall just after Dean Smith had left them to move to Brentford and have been a few times actually. The other one that sticks out as a memory was last season for one of Steve Cotterill’s final games in charge of Birmingham when they were walloped 5-0.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
2-2 Bees continue strong home form and bounce back after a disappointing “winnable” game against Sheffield United. After the very poor away game against West Brom – scraping a draw last minute – Bees show their attacking quality and improved defence. Edward the Headward
3-1 to the Bees A leaderless West Brom will wilt from relentless Brentford pressure. A Canos double and a Maupay goal. Gayle for the visitors. Cham de Silva
3-1 Bees West Brom unable to cope with Brentford onslaught. Greville Waterman
2-2 After two tough away wins, we will be back on home soil where we are so prolific. Three games in eight days will hurt the players’ fitness but we have the talent to cause problems against a good play-off team. Robin Hood
2-1 victory for Brentford After a frustrating performance at Bramall Lane, the Bees avoid the new manager bounce and strike a blow to WBA’s promotion hopes. Liberal Nick
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For West Brom fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and nearly all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.
However, only two are available to Baggies fans on Saturday.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side but is home fans only for this match. The Princess Royal is the other options, while the Royal Oak is closed for this game.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
And another new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road.
There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.
Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
By tube, it’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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