The mood surrounding West Bromwich Albion over the summer months can in no way be described as great as despite pushing ourselves to the Play-Off Semi-Finals last season, everything that was wrong with the club was ably demonstrated by our cheap approach to off pitch matters – short of the investment made in Dwight Gayle.
This year, for all the criticism that can be sent at our owner, it seems somebody stumbled over a plan and whilst Gayle wasn’t in it – nor were the names we let depart (whether by choice or ridiculous contract promises) – the arrival of manager Slaven Bilic marked a real change in belief and whilst our transfer business didn’t exactly get fans off their seats, we brought sensibly and loaned very sensibly.
We’re reaping the rewards for that as we sit in top spot in the Championship table and we seem (hiccups aside) far more balanced compared to last year. Speaking to the Express and Star ahead of this weekend’s clash with Charlton Athletic, often criticised Technical Director Luke Dowling, gave another good interview (in my humble) where in short, he was arguing fans were now seeing the benefits of earlier decisions that had left fans (me included) frustrated.
“We are very active in our scouting and recruitment plans, not only with January in mind but also the longer term. One of the things I recall saying in my first days in the job was my intention to get this area of operation back to the ‘Albion way’, by which I mean exploring the market for those little gems who can re-energise the club and come here to improve us on the pitch. I’ve only had one full window so far but I’d like to think we’ve made a start in this area.”
Dowling went on to say.
“I also like to think – and I say this without any criticism of what went before – that the scouting network we’ve now got in operation is in a better place to fulfil our targets. The proof will always be in the pudding and I accept we have only just started in this process. No-one is imagining for a second that we have achieved anything yet, but I know our supporters will respond to players who reflect their own values of hard work and dedication to the club. That will always be very important in our thinking in our recruitment plans.”
It’s definitely not an ‘I told you so’ and he was right to caveat his words with angles that we can still do better, it’s only a start etc but it definitely emphasises we now genuinely do seem to have a plan. Whether that’s more from the club side, or more from Bilic’s side will be a debate for some, but we just have to be happy we have one, especially as we all know ‘The Albion Way’ that worked, albeit may not have been pretty, had long been abandoned in recent years and was a massive part in our downfall with overpaid, underachieving and uncaring players that wouldn’t fight for the shirt unless it suited them.
It’s been a long time coming….let’s just hope we get the reward we want from it, but next time, instead of abandoning our grounding, we evolve our way of working in a far better way.