West Bromwich Albion will be looking to make an immediate return to the top-flight when they travel to Bournemouth on Friday night under new boss Valérien Ismaël.
The Frenchman became the club’s head coach back in June, signing a four-year contract at the Hawthorns after Albion agreed a compensation package with Barnsley.
Ismaël succeeds Sam Allardyce after he stepped down at the end of last season following his failure to keep West Brom in the Premier League.
He guided Barnsley to an impressive fifth-place finish in the Championship last season, after taking over in October 2020 with the club 21st in the table.
The former Crystal Palace defender won 25 of his 44 games in charge before losing to Swansea in the play-off semi-finals.
“It feels great to have appointed a manager that hasn’t come straight from that mediocre Managerial Merry-Go-Round,” Nathan Powell from Baggies Bible tells FansBet.
“I think we’ve had them all now haven’t we? Pulis, Big Sam and Alan Pardew have all featured in the Albion dugout in recent years and you definitely know what you’re getting with those boys at the helm.
“This feels fresh though. Ismael’s way of playing is intense, highly energetic and most importantly, entertaining! I think the majority of fans are excited for the season ahead.”
West Brom were relegated from the Premier League lat season under Sam Allardyce having picked-up just 26 points all campaign with the Baggies winning just five games and conceding 76 goals – the most in the league.
But if Albion are to make an immediate return to the top-flight they will have to do so without arguably two of their best players – Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira – with West Ham reportedly interested in the former and the latter completing a move to Saudi side Al Hilal earlier today.
Pereira, who netted ten Premier League goals last term as the Baggies were relegated back to the second tier, revealed his desire to depart the club on social media earlier this week.
“The biggest transfer news to come out of the Hawthorns this summer will most likely be the sale of both Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira,” says Nathan.
“Both stood out in a poor side that struggled massively in the Premier League which has consequently attracted some interest from sides who still remain in the top division.
“Their departure should provide the funds for us to make a few additions of our own though.
“Alex Mowatt looks to have settled in well as does Clarke, but we most certainly need a striker and cover in the odd positions should certain players get injured.”
Albion kick-off the new campaign with a trip to Bournemouth on Friday night, a side who will also be under the guidance of a new manager with Scott Parker taking the reins having left Fulham in the summer following the club’s second relegation in three seasons.
The 40-year-old’s departure from Craven Cottage was swiftly followed by confirmation that he will succeed Jonathan Woodgate at the south coast club on a three-year deal and Nathan is more than aware of the threat they pose.
“Bournemouth have notoriously played quality football in recent years,” he explains.
“Although, I haven’t seen enough of then to know whether that has continued since Eddie Howe’s departure.
“What we do know is that anything can happen in the Championship. Bournemouth will want to hit the ground running just as much as we do which should provide a solid test.”
West Brom sealed promotion to the Premier League with a 2-2 draw against QPR at the tail-end of the 2019/2020 season under Slaven Bilic, finishing in second spot behind champions Leeds United.
But even before the season kicked off Bilic appeared to be on borrowed time and was eventually sacked in December with West Brom collecting seven points from their opening 13 league games.
The club turned to Sam Allardyce in the hope of staying up and although the club’s form improved – with West Brom stunning Chelsea 5-2 and Southampton 3-0 at the start of April — they left themselves with far too much work to do.
A 3-1 defeat at Arsenal left Sam Allardyce’s team 10 points away from safety with three games left to play and Albion’s fate was sealed, meaning they once again begin the long road back to the big time – something which doesn’t appear to faze the Baggies fan base, including Nathan.
“A swift return to the Premier League will undoubtedly be the expectation of both the fans and the board,” he says.
“It was well documented that Slaven Bilic had two seasons to get us up and we ended up getting promoted after his first season in charge.
“Can Ismael do the same? I hope so. If not, the Championship is always a fun ride – especially without VAR – and I’m sure we’ll give the new gaffer time.”
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