Saturday, September 26

Up the Albion!

- January 4, 2012

Mark Brailsford on a new year of football

So what are your resolutions? I’m sticking to mine, which is to never make any New Year resolutions, and I’ve successfully stuck to it for 15 years. For Gus Poyet it must be to go and get a few more points, a few more players, and a few less cards. The Albion’s card count soared again recently and suspensions threaten to undermine the New Year push to progress up the table.

The festive period is always fraught with long away trips being a particular nuisance to players and fans alike. A trip to beauteous delights of the M4 corridor at Reading on Boxing Day and a long haul to struggling Coventry may have helped relieve the pressure on families at this time of year, but like many fans I was hoping for more festive games at The Amex. However, we did have the visit of Southampton yesterday (2 Jan) and if we hadn’t lost too many players to yellow cards already, we were bound to in that game.

So who comes in now? Jara Reyes was meant to have played his last game of the loan period against Southampton. The welcome return of Adam El Abd has been timely to say the least and Albion look so much stronger with him back in the side. Once Vincelot has served his ban he will be back for either the FA cup match against Wrexham or the Bristol City game, which might be handy as Dunk and Greer, not to mention Bridcutt, may well be absent for the New Year games. Which brings me to the whole winter break debate.

“The team played like lions; I’ve rarely been so proud to support an Albion side”

Poyet, like many managers, wants to have a winter break. To most fans this is an awful idea; if there is one thing that sustains us in the bleak midwinter it’s watching football. So what is the solution? How about this for a mad one? Cut out the League Cup for Premier and Championship teams, abolish the Leyland, Windscreens, Johnston’s Paint, Uncle Tom Cobbly and All Cup and shorten the main season. Start on the last weekend of August and end on the first weekend in May, (League programme to end last weekend of April and Cup Final on the first Saturday of May) like the good old days. That way, the players are not so knackered, the England team are able to at least jog at a decent pace, and the cricket season gets a fairer breathing space. I’m only saying.

Thanks Ref
Thanks to referee Craig Pawson in the game against Burnley, the Albion may reap more than the lost three points after his catastrophic decision making in that game. The sending offs are one thing but his inconsistency was the thing that infuriated fans at The Amex, which is why we may be thanking him in games to come.

The Amex atmosphere is evolving, the players are not the only ones learning to play in a new stadium; we, the supporters are also learning how to watch and support the team. The incredible atmosphere, particularly in the second half against Burnley was so incredibly supportive that the players know that the fans are united behind the team. The team played like lions; I’ve rarely been so proud to support an Albion side, and many fans came away from that game saying it was the best 1-0 loss they’ve ever seen.

The other thing to thank Mr Pawson for was how his baffling inconsistency united the team in an amazing fight back. Yes, we didn’t win, but that spirit where our nine men evenly matched the 12 on the Burnley side (including the ref) must surely convince the players that they are a damn good football team.

Photo: copyright Paul Hazlewood.

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