Opposition View: The Baggies Podcast
The Town, aiming to get back to winning ways, host the Baggies at Kenilworth Road on Saturday. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Louis Bent, of The Baggies Podcast, to get the Albion perspective...
Tell us a bit about you and your Baggies supporting background…
Both my mum and my dad’s sides of the family support West Brom and have done throughout their lifetimes, with my mum’s parents based only a 5-minute drive from the Hawthorns itself. My first present when I was born was a Baggie Bird mascot teddy, which was thrust upon me by my Grandad, from that point it became apparent that there was no way out for me in terms of supporting a different club.
I began taking a real interest in games at the age of 5/6, where I attended the odd fixture at The Hawthorns during both the Tony Mowbray era and the beginning of the Roberto Di-Matteo reign until I became a season ticket holder for the 2010/11 season.
From then on I witnessed special seasons under Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke, and even Tony Pulis to some extent. I’ve now taken my interest and love for West Brom and hope to include it in my future career path, where I’m aspiring to become a journalist who talks about them for a living.
Having been relegated from the Premier League last season, and appointing a highly-rated manager in Valerien Ismael, there was a lot of expectation on WBA to get promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking. What have you made of how the season has played out?
The season has been largely disappointing, many including myself expected this to be an unconventionally exciting and prosperous season for the Baggies. However, it became clear after around fifteen or so games, that Valerien Ismael was not a great fit for us.
Although I personally was really keen for him to succeed as he was a gentleman off the pitch and proved to have an interesting style of play that intrigued me greatly, the style of play became inflexible, with Ismael growing more stubborn by the game despite the continuing abseil down the league table. The atmosphere at The Hawthorns also became toxic, with plenty of boos, jeers, and abuse aimed at both the players and the manager which in the end proved fatal for the Frenchman.
Steve Bruce was appointed as Ismael’s replacement, an appointment which undeniably comes with a track record of promotion from the Championship. How have the Baggies fanbase taken to Steve Bruce, and what is the general feeling on what can still be achieved this season?
Steve Bruce isn’t your typical appointment that’s going to excite fans, but it’s more the manager that we need, not necessarily want. Sure deep down I’d be inclined to hope for a younger, fresher face at the helm, but there’s a real need for him to come in and steady the ship.
The squad is much weaker from the last time we were in this division, and following pelters from large sections of the fanbase over the past year, their confidence is shot. Bruce is known for being a personable, calm, and measured figure, and the type to put an arm around a player when they’re not performing well, rather than banish them from the first-team squad.
For this, I think he’s the right appointment and so far is showing improvements off the pitch, but I think the goal he needs to focus on is sending us back into the play-off places as I feel automatic promotion is a little far-fetched now.
The Baggies squad looks a little different from the one that faced the Hatters at the Hawthorns back on the second game of the season. Who are the key players in this current squad?
For key players, we’re struggling for those currently, as little of the current XI seems particularly riled up to get results at the moment. I think Andy Carroll has shown the bravery and desire to take the team forwards, his spearheading of the attack has given us a focal point to play off, and we hope he can be utilised a bit more effectively in the coming weeks.
Grady Diangana ‘should’ be a key man for us, but he’s yet to rediscover the sort of form that saw him bag two goals on his Albion debut at Kenilworth Road back in 2019, however, with Bruce giving him some confidence I feel he can go back to that undroppable asset he once was.
Looking back to our meeting last August, you clearly showed the quality you have in taking a 3-0 lead, but the Hatters hit back and made the scoreline look a lot more competitive. What did you make of Luton in that game, and of how we’ve progressed this season?
It was an interesting game, and I think an extra 10 minutes would’ve seen you equalise as that was the way the match was turning. Luton definitely impressed me and have progressed so far this season, largely with teamwork, organisation, and the ability to hit teams on the break.
I watched your game against Bournemouth back in January and your spirit and never say die attitude proved to be pivotal yet again, managing to pip them to the post and get three points – it’ll be a tough game on Saturday for sure.
Time for some predictions - who do you think (i) will get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs, and (iii) get relegated?
I think Bournemouth and Fulham look incredibly strong and much more complete than any of the other sides in the division, so I wouldn’t look past them for automatic promotion at all. As for teams in the playoffs, I’ll go for Middlesbrough and Forest, who look vastly improved under their new managers. Along with Blackburn and ourselves (I’m not confident but I’d feel bad leaving us out). As for relegation, I’d say Peterborough, Barnsley, and Reading (depending on whether the latter changes their manager).
Finally, give us your score prediction for Saturday’s game…
It’ll be a tough one for sure, you’ve been in some good form bar the Birmingham game, but we’re going in the right direction. But we need to win to prevent a void being created between ourselves and the top six, so I’m going to back us to win this one in a slightly unpretty fashion – 1-0.
With thanks to Louis Bent (@louisbent_). For more from The Baggies Podcast, check out @TheBaggiesPod (Twitter), @TheBaggiesPodcast (Instagram), and www.youtube.com/TheBaggiesPodcast.