West Bromwich Albion deserve their early-season accolades

Can West Brom build on their excellent start by claiming a second successive win over Chelsea?

In a week where Roy Hodgson took centre stage, as he accompanied his youthful inexperienced England team to Stockholm for the International friendly against Sweden, his former club West Bromwich Albion has been attracting my attention.

It was Everton manager, David Moyes, who proclaimed that an accurate assessment could only be made after ten games (and that relates to all the Premier League clubs, not just his Everton side). After the completion of week eleven in the Premier League, WBA supporters are delighted to see their team occupying a lofty position of 5th; above Spurs, Arsenal and their city rivals Aston Villa.

With that in mind, the midlands based club deserves every accolade that is being bestowed upon them from pundits and the media alike.

Other supporters do not always see WBA as a ‘real’ Premier League club, but they are now a firmly established and respected top-flight team.

If you glance back to the summer, when rookie manager Steve Clarke replaced new England manager Hodgson, things looked anything but promising for WBA.

Plenty of fans piecing together their pre-season Fantasy Football teams could easily be forgiven for giving any of their players a wide berth.

But the appointment of Clarke is now looking like a shrewd move by the astute club chairman, Jeremy Pearce. Last season WBA were workmanlike; unspectacular but notoriously hard to beat under Hodgson, particularly at The Hawthorns.

Clarke has continued that mentality, but he added a sprinkle of flair and creativity to compliment his scrooge-like defense.

High calibre players like James Morrison, Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long are a joy to watch, and a handful for any opposition defenders.

That is without mentioning Romelu Lukaku - who cost Chelsea a reputed £18 million – whose performances this season have easily eclipsed Fernando Torres’ embarrassing efforts at Stamford Bridge.

For a man cruelly tagged as the "new Didier Drogba", a season-long loan spell has been just the remedy to cure his lack of form and experience in the EPL.

On form, a fully fired up Lukaku would grace most EPL sides. Chelsea fans must be wondering why he was allowed to leave on loan, leaving them to endure the misfiring Torres and Daniel Sturridge.

Eagle-eyed and knowledgeable football aficionados may claim that Clarke’s current success is no real surprise considering his coaching history.

Since 1998, Clarke has worked alongside the likes of Ruud Gullit, Avram Grant, Gianfranco Zola, Kenny Dalglish and Jose Mourinho.

If Clarke’s repertoire boasts some of their best attributes, WBA could be the surprise package of 2012/2013 Premier League season.

I am not one to lavish praise often, but teams like WBA and Everton breaking the usual Premier League monotony is fantastic for football.

Seeing the usual suspects monopolising the top echelons of the Premier League offers very little entertainment value for other club’s supporters.

However, the longer WBA tower above Arsenal, the more exciting the EPL becomes.

That said, I am under no illusion how tough it will be for WBA as the season progresses. The Baggies test against Chelsea on Saturday provides them with another stern home examination, thus it is imperative that they play to their strengths.

A raucous Hawthorns on a Saturday afternoon is an intimidating place to visit, therefore turning their home ground into a fortress will be key if they are to continue to retain their impressive league position.

Once the fortress is breached, the downward spiral could begin.  Nobody knows what will happen over the next 27 league games, but I hope they continue to irritate the Premier League elite.

For now, WBA are rightfully enjoying the spotlight.

image: © hisgett

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