City kick off a run of top of the table fixtures, with a trip to the Hawthorns. Andrew Lawn chats to Baggies fan and Idle Noise drummer Josh Bland for his take on Dwight Gayle, goalfests and a mutual dislike of Wolves.
Andy – 4th place and hot on the heels of us and Leeds, how do you feel the season has gone so far?
Josh - I don't think we could have asked for much more so far. We're playing really exciting football, banging in the goals and above all have a likeable squad led by a manager who everyone supports. Given the especially traumatic nature of the relegation last season, and the complete apathy that Tony Pulis bred from fans during his tenure, I must say the Championship is a complete breath of fresh air, and Albion fans are loving it.
Welcome to the club. It presents an interesting dilemma though; win every week and love life, but ultimately end up back in the joyless Premier League. Or don't and spend a generation in the Championship, before Paul Lambert takes you into League 1 with a whimper. Oh the futility of sport. Do you fancy your chances of catching us come May?
There's definitely an element of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." I love the Championship, but the unfortunate truth is there's too much at stake financially for us not to get promoted, and the longer you stay down the harder it becomes, as I'm sure you know.
I think everything hinges on January for us. It's easy to look at our squad and come to the conclusion that it's one of the strongest in the league, and whilst we do have genuine top tier quality in and around the starting XI, our squad is still paper thin. We don't even have a natural right back (apart from Tyrone Mears, who doesn't count as a footballer)! If we manage to bring in 3 or 4 players to provide quality cover around the pitch, and Harvey Barnes doesn't get recalled to Leicester, I really do fancy us to catch one of the two of you.
I can't help but like Darren Moore, so I personally hope you do well. I also have a soft spot for Leeds and obviously, want Norwich to beat the lot of you so make of that what you will.
Is the expectation that Moore will chuck some more money at the squad in January, or are the financial realities of life outside the top-flight starting to bite?
Yeah, I'll throw my hands up and admit that I actually didn't want Moore to be appointed. Despite how well he'd done at the back end of last season, I didn't think he had the experience or the nous to make us a force in this division. He's not a flawless manager, but I've been blown away by his ability to foster a really great atmosphere and get results in what is a deceptively difficult job. To be where we are in the league, whilst having to balance the books, re-integrate wantaway players and create a footballing identity is quite an achievement. Let's not forget that he's only managed 30 or so league games in his entire career - this is a man who is learning and improving.
I just hope when the inevitable rough patches come there isn't an overreaction from the fans and the club, because it's evident that we've got a fledgling top level manager on our hands - and I'm not just saying that because he's a club legend anyway.
Regarding transfers, the board have made it fairly clear that we've got limited funds to play with in January, and I'd be amazed if our spending goes beyond £10m unless we sell. It's very much a case of bringing in good loan signings and targeted bargain buys - but I've got faith that we'll manage to strengthen in a couple of areas.
Moore reminds me of when we appointed Neil Adams in many ways. Sadly for Neil we had a run of ‘easy’ home games that we drew and confidence in him seemed to evaporate immediately in both players and fans.
You mentioned RB but where else do you feel you need to strengthen? We can do you an excellent deal on a Portuguese striker?
Yeah it’s always the danger, and I do feel our fan base is prone to over react more than most, which is natural after some of the dross we’ve seen over the last four years. I do feel that Moore’s got enough credit in the bank as a cult hero to give himself more time if things get especially hairy.
Yeah, a right back is essential. We’ve signed Mason Holgate, but like Dawson and Adiraboyo, he’d be another centre back playing out of position. I’d also be seeking out another striker and central midfielder as a matter of urgency. James Tavernier, James McCarthy and Isaac Hayden are the big rumours at the moment, and they’d fit the profile in my book.
On to areas you’re strong, obviously goalscoring is one so let’s get 2 sore spots out of the way; the 4-3 back in August and Dwight Bloody Gayle. Although he’s injured isn’t he?
Gayle should be fit for the weekend, as will Hegazi, which is massive for us. Having our top scorer and defensive anchor back in the team will be a huge boost.
It goes without saying that goal scoring is our forte. We’ve already got more than 50 in the league, we’re going at more than 2 a game and we didn’t fail to score in a single home game in 2018 - though watch us fail against you lot after I’ve said that! We play direct but attractive counter attacking football, and we’re at our absolute best breaking quickly from deep. I’m yet to see a team who has dealt effectively with Phillips and Barnes’ ability to carry the team up the pitch and I firmly believe we’ve got the best wingers in the league.
Obviously in Rodriguez and especially Gayle we’ve got two strikers who should really score 20+ at this level every season, and having watched him since he’s joined us, I’m staggered Gayle has this “won’t do it in the premier league” label on him - he’s one of the best strikers I’ve seen for Albion.
What’s the Norwich beef with Gayle - I’m interested?
I like the sound of that goal scoring run. We love ending those sorts of things, good or bad; alongcomenorwich...
The thing with Gayle is that he just always bloody scores. Google Newcastle 4-3 Norwich from 2 seasons ago. He’s an absolute menace.
We are prone to getting caught on the break but we quite like a goal ourselves. Our football has been sublime at times, especially away so expect a cracker.
Talking of the Hawthorns, has all those goals created a cracking atmosphere or is it struggling along with the rest of English football?
Ah - I’ve just googled the game, I remember it well. Having watched the highlights it looks like he could have scored 6 that day.
What I would say is that I see lots of parallels between us this season. I don’t think many people had us finishing top two, even despite the fact we’d only just come down, and I think we’re stylistically similar in the sense we play nice football, score goals and have a soft defensive core. Should make for an excellent game, though I’d take 1-0.
Like our teams, I think the Hawthorns is similar to Carrow Road. I’ve made the trip 3 or 4 times to your place, and they’re similar size, fans are close to the pitch and the atmosphere is bouncing when things are going well. It’s becoming an absolute fortress and we’re hoping it stays that way in 2019.
I agree actually, we’re very similar and that’s before we get to a strong dislike of Wolves. Bastards.
Let’s wrap things up with a specific prediction. I’m going for a complete reversal of the August game; you’ll score first and dominate, but you’ll never shake us off and come Pukki time (injury time to everyone else) Teemu will nick our 4th and we’ll be dancing back to Norfolk.
Always good to see someone embrace the light side - they’re an awful club.
I’m going to say 3-1 Albion, I just feel on our own patch we’re favourites and we’ve got enough to pick at that defence of yours...