West Brom are fac­ing rel­e­ga­tion

CityPress - - Sport - DAVID MINCHELLA sports@city­press.co.za

West Bromwich Al­bion’s sea­son hasn’t been quite as dis­as­trous as Derby County’s in 2007/08 when they tal­lied just 11 points, but the Bag­gies are still star­ing down the bar­rel of al­most cer­tain rel­e­ga­tion ahead of to­day’s Premier League clash with Manch­ester United at Old Trafford.

With that said, there have been some in­cred­i­ble great es­capes from the drop down the years, with Portsmouth pulling off a mir­a­cle in 2005 un­der Harry Red­knapp.

With the fi­nan­cial back­ing of Mi­lan Man­darić, Red­knapp bought the likes of Ben­jani Mwaruwari, An­drés D’Alessandro, Pe­dro Men­des, Wayne Rout­ledge and Sean Davies to turn around what seemed like an im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion.

With 10 games to go, Pom­pey were 10 points clear of safety in 19th place, but man­aged six wins and two draws to sur­vive.

Yet the tale of the tape at the Hawthorns is even more gloomy – the club are rock bot­tom with a 10-point gap be­tween them­selves and Crys­tal Palace and just five matches to play, in­clud­ing to­day’s en­counter.

Should they fail to pick up their first win away from home since beat­ing Burn­ley 1-0 in Au­gust last year, in all prob­a­bil­ity the West Mid­lands out­fit will be rel­e­gated. In ad­di­tion, the suc­cess over the Clarets is the only away win in 2017/18.

When you fac­tor in that Al­bion last won at the Theatre of Dreams in 2015 when Louis van Gaal was in charge of an un­der­whelm­ing United, it ap­pears it is mis­sion im­pos­si­ble for care­taker coach Dar­ren Moore’s men.

Prepa­ra­tion for life in Eng­land’s second tier is seem­ingly al­ready un­der way as, aside from Alan Pardew’s rel­a­tively re­cent exit fol­low­ing abysmal form, the club parted ways with tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Nick Ham­mond last week.

Ham­mond had helped pick Pardew and was re­spon­si­ble for the hir­ing and fir­ing of six dif­fer­ent coaches since 2011. The 50-yearold fol­lows chair­per­son John Wil­liams and chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Good­man out of the door.

While the mood in the camp was slightly bright­ened by the 1-1 draw with Swansea City the last time out un­der Moore, the ugly spec­tre of Jay Rodriguez’s racial abuse charge hangs over West Brom, with the striker seem­ingly in trou­ble for words said to Brighton & Hove Al­bion’s Gaë­tan Bong in a game in Jan­uary.

Nev­er­the­less, there have been mirac­u­lous per­for­mances by dead and buried teams over the years against the big­gest clubs in Eng­land.

In the 2006/07 sea­son, West Ham United pro­duced a shock as they beat United at Old Trafford cour­tesy of a Car­los Tevez strike, which led to the Ham­mers stay­ing up at the ex­pense of Sh­effield United.

In 2015/16, Sam Allardyce’s Sun­der­land stunned Chelsea 3-2 in a re­sult that saved them from the drop at New­cas­tle United’s ex­pense.

How­ever, José Mour­inho’s Red Devils have lost just once at home in this cam­paign to cham­pi­ons-elect Manch­ester City, and have beaten Liver­pool and Chelsea in their last three out­ings in Greater Manch­ester. It ap­pears the vis­i­tors from Stafford­shire need noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle to win and then go on and avoid the drop.

PHOTO: NIGEL RODDIS / EPA

BACK Paul Pogba will be hop­ing to con­tinue where he left off against ri­vals City last week­end

PHOTO: AN­THONY DEVLIN / PA WIRE

GO­ING DOWN West Bromwich Al­bion care­taker man­ager Dar­ren Moore has an im­pos­si­ble task ahead of him

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