Since West Brom narrowly avoided relegation last season there has been a sense that the Baggies could be in for another season of Premier League struggle next season.
The appointment of Alan Irvine as Pepe Mel’s replacement in the managerial hot seat has not helped.
The Scot’s managerial experience is unproven in the top-flight, having only managed Preston and Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
At Preston it was acknowledged that he had done a very decent job and the fans were unhappy with his dismissal in December 2009, after he had led North End to the play-offs, only to be beaten by Sheffield United in the semi-finals.
At Sheffield Wednesday he made a bright start, before his Owls team suffered relegation from the second tier. Irvine struggled to revive Wednesday’s fortunes in League One and was sacked.
Irvine’s managerial career followed a long career as a coach. He worked at former-club Everton as David Moyes right-hand man and also had jobs in youth management at the likes of Newcastle and Blackburn.
He is considered a very good coach by those inside the game and he seems to have a good reputation amongst his peers.
No matter how highly-rated he is by his peers, the fact he has no managerial experience in the Premier League and had a mixed record in the Championship may be a concern to the West Brom fans.
His appointment was a major surprise and has been seen as some as the cheap option, including me at the time. To be fair to Irvine though, he is regarded as a decent coach, so he should be given a chance and not shot down before the season has even started.
Irvine has been busy strengthening his squad this summer bringing in no less than eight players. The Baggies squad needed more quality and quantity. They have made some decent signings this summer.
The most impressive of the eight has to be that England centre-back Joleon Lescott. The experience defender had been linked with a return to Everton, as well as a move to the Baggies Midlands rivals Aston Villa. However, he decided to move to the Hawthorns.
Lescott could be a key player for the Baggies at the heart of the defence next season. The former-Everton star cannot be much worse than Uruguayan international centre-back Diego Lugano, who looked very shaky at times last season, although he did score a few vital goals at the other end of the pitch.
West Brom has also completed the signings of Jason Davidson, Cristian Gamboa, Craig Gardner, Chris Baird, Andre Wisdom, Sebastien Pocognoli and Brown Ideye.
Davidson and Gamboa represented Australia and Costa Rica respectively at the World Cup, while Baird, Ideye and Pocognoli are also international players. Gardner and Baird are experienced Premier League performers.
Youngster Wisdom is highly-rated by parent club Liverpool and has put in some impressive performances for the Reds. Unfortunately for the youngster he has some stiff competition for a first team place at Anfield.
I do not think that Irvine has done badly in the transfer market this summer, especially the free signings of Lescott and Gardner, who are players that have bags of Premier League experience between them.
Some of the other players are unknown quantity, but who knows they may turn out to be excellent signings.
I would stick my neck out and suggest that the Baggies squad this season will be slightly stronger all round than last seasons.
It seems that West Brom’s primary aim next season will be to survive the drop, well according to the bookmakers anyway. The Baggies are fourth favourites for relegation at odds of 5/2, with only the promoted clubs Leicester, Burney and QPR shorter odds for the drop next season.
These odds obviously reflect what happened last season and the Baggies struggles under Steve Clarke and later on Pepe Mel.
Pre-season results have not been good so far, but a number of their new signings have not heavily featured, if at all. West Brom seems like a good family club and hopefully a new start under Irvine will mean a more positive season ahead.
Are Baggies in for another season of struggle?
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