We take a look at the five West Brom players who stood out this season.
So it is official – West Bromwich Albion have lost the “boing-boing” tag of the perennial up-and-down club. Following an outstanding campaign that saw them finish eighth in the Premier League, it is clear that Steve Clarke is cut-out for leading roles and not just those of a side-kick.
Despite finishing 12 points behind seventh-placed Liverpool, the Baggies were very much the best of the rest. And as if further proof was needed of their new-found confidence and resilience, finding themselves 3-0 down in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game, and facing a potential trouncing, they hit back to get an equal share of the ten goals on show that afternoon.
Whether they can repeat those achievements next year is a question for another day. For now we take a look at the five players who stood out in a team with much to be proud of.
The 33-year-old has had an outstanding season at the heart of West Brom’s defence, missing only two league games all year. In the other 36, he has played every single minute, dominating in the air and chipping in with three goals and two assists for good measure.
After such a consistent season, it was no surprise when McAuley cleaned up at the club’s end-of-season awards ceremony, winning the Players’ Player of the Year, Supporters’ Player of the Year and Disabled Supporters’ Player of the Year.
To celebrate, he signed an improved contract at The Hawthorns that will see him remain for at least another two years. For the club, it is money well spent
McAuley’s defensive partner, and last year’s Player of the Year, Jonas Olsson has been an integral part of the Baggies’ team once again. The 30-year-old Swede has matched both his teammate’s record of 36 league appearances, and the fact that he has played every minute of each of them. And while he failed to find the score-sheet, his ability at the back has been vital.
With two such experienced defenders, it is no surprise the players ahead of them are confident to push forward. And while Clarke will hope to improve the club’s defensive record next season, in Olsson and McAuley he has the players to seize that challenge.
Some choices are left-field, others are blatantly obvious. The on-loan Chelsea man has been nothing short of phenomenal this season, scoring 17 goals and providing four assists in 35 games (of which just 20 were starts).
Clarke has already spoken of his desire to welcome the Belgian striker back next season. But having seen their best forward scoring goals for someone else this year, it is unlikely Chelsea will make the same mistake again.
With his imposing frame and unwavering confidence, it is easy to forget that Lukaku has only been out of his teens for less than two weeks. If he can do what he has achieved as a teenager, imagine what he can do when he gets really good.
The midfielder’s debut season at The Hawthorns has been outstanding; so much so that it is staggering that many hadn’t heard of him before his summer move to West Brom. In what has been a quietly triumphant campaign for the Baggies, Yacob has been an integral part.
In 30 top flight appearances he has appeared predominantly as a defensive midfielder, and it is his work as much as that of Olsson’s and McAuley’s that has allowed West Brom’s more attacking players to excel.
So good has the 25-year-old’s first season in England been that recent reports have suggested that both Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are interested in his services. With a World Cup on the horizon, Clarke must do all he can to convince the Argentina international that he can make the squad while remaining exactly where he is.
The Scottish midfielder is West Brom’s gem. And he has had another solid season, scoring five goals and providing four assists in 34 appearances. The 26-year-old may not be as prolific as his talent suggests he could be, but he has something special that, for me at least, warrants his place on this list.
With his ability to play key passes he is a vital cog in the Baggies’ machine. And when he does score, it is almost invariably a corker. This final place was very nearly taken by Youssuf Mulumbu, but Morrison got in by a nose; if only because without him, the Baggies would be considerably less than they are.
Do you agree with our choices? If not, who deserves their place ahead of the players above?
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