Overall, I think it’s been a good season for the Baggies. It began on somewhat of a sour note with the club headed by Alan Irvine, who no one really believed was good enough to be a Premier League manager. They never really got going under Irvine and couldn’t find a rhythm in their play. The one shining light was the improvement young forward Saido Berahino appeared to have made, with two goals on the opening day of the season. Irvine’s tenure in the midlands came to a hostile end at the end of 2014 following a run of 7 losses in 9 games, leaving West Bromwich Albion in 16th position in the league, but I think it was the right time for Irvine to go purely because it only looked worse as the season went on.
Speculation grew as to who they would be able to attract after a number of failed managers in the last two seasons, but the board made one of the better managerial decisions of the season. Renowned for steadying the ship nowadays, Tony Pulis was appointed by the West Brom board as head coach on New Year’s Day.
They knew exactly what they were going to get from Pulis, and instantly looked much more defensively solid. Conceding just 51 goals over the course of the season shows progress in this side, the same progress that they’re going to need next season in the attacking third if they want to move away from the bottom of the table. Their wins against both Chelsea and Manchester United show how strong they can be on their day.
38 goals across the whole campaign, with 14 of them from Berahino, highlights a real lack of goals in this Albion side. If they can add goals to the solidity that Pulis undoubtedly brings, West Bromwich Albion can begin to look up the table to the teams above them rather than looking over their shoulder to the relegation zone.
Key Player – Saido Berahino
Despite a solid season for West Brom, there weren’t too many contenders for their best player of the season. However, Saido Berahino has been the stand out man at the Hawthorns, with 14 league goals to his name. He’s established himself as an England under-21 international during the course of the season ahead of this summer’s European Championships, and has said he has aspirations of breaking into the full England squad during the course of next season.
It’s also no surprise that the 22-year-old is being highly sought after this summer window, but staying at the Hawthorns could be the best thing for his development as he’d continue to get regular game time and, hopefully, continue to score goals. In the second half of the season under Pulis, employed alongside either Brown Ideye or Victor Anichebe, Berahino looked more comfortable feeding off of those two rather than trying to create and hold up the play on his own. 20 goals in all competitions for the youngster shows real talent, and if he can continue to build on the start he’s made at West Brom, he could become a special talent in this country.
Most Improved Player – Chris Brunt
For years now Brunt has just breezed through every season playing regularly but not really doing anything too significant. That might seem harsh, but not many people outside the West Brom fan base could name too many things the Northern Irishman has done in his seven years at the Hawthorns, but this season he’s been impressive and his game has come on a long way from just having energy and work rate.
Now 30, Brunt has improved in this goalscoring contributions this season. Scoring a handful of goals and assisting on 10 different occasions in the league made him a real asset in the West Brom side. With the height and physical presence of a number of players in the West Brom squad, his set-piece deliveries became so important and provided a number of opportunities for these players.
In the whole squad, Brunt created more chances for other players than anyone else, and I think this shows real improvement from the winger. Not blessed with bags of pace and ability, Brunt has spent years perfecting this side of his game, and this season in particular it all came together. Under Pulis, he became a key player both on the pitch playing and as someone with an experienced head.
Fans’ View – Jack Bradley (Sports Journalism Student)
This past season for West Bromwich Albion certainly finished in a way it hadn’t started: on a high note, as we beat the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in an exciting, relegation-defeating end to the campaign. Alan Irvine’s appointment as the club’s head coach in June 2014 seemed to rub every single fan in the blue-and-white side of the Black Country the wrong way on the back of a shocking season and the departure of the much-preferred Pepe Mel. Whilst Mel was most likely not the right fit for the job at the time, neither was Irvine – and as the club stared down the barrel of relegation in the 2014/2015 winter period, the right man was finally appointed in the form of Tony Pulis.
Getting a tune out of record signing Brown Ideye, revitalising and nurturing talented Saido Berahino who finished the campaign with an impressive 14 league goals, bringing in the experienced Darren Fletcher and talented Callum McManaman (who many Albion fans are predicting to have a big season in the next campaign) and making Claudio Yacob a central figure in the Albion team once again, Pulis struck gold and dragged the team to a 13th place finish.
With 16 clean sheets in the league, Albion have the grit and determination of a typical Pulis side, as experienced head Joleon Lescott leads the ‘Baggies’ back line, but also a direct threat going forward in the likes of Berahino, Morrison and others, and with this an air of hope rather than desperation has returned to The Hawthorns. Pulis delivered the cup run that Irvine promised but couldn’t achieve himself whilst also staving off relegation, and for now at least, feels like the perfect man for the job as West Brom look to build for the future. Come on you Baggies!