That was the season that was...
Dave Watkin rubs his eyes and asks 'did we really do that?'
If you're still wondering how ALBION retained their place in the PREMIERSHIP, here's a summary of our season, highlighting seven memorable games which in different ways were key to survival.
I've also trawled through my match reports for FORM RATES and MAN-OF-THE-MATCH nominations, which I've collated.
Finally, have you been wondering how we rate on our form over the SECOND HALF of the season? If so, look below.
The Baggies opened the season in AUGUST with three draws. Next came four away defeats (including a capitulation to Colchester United in the Carling Cup), along with a home draw against a bad tempered Fulham side, during which we missed a penalty. This meant that at the end of SEPTEMBER we were without a win and in the bottom three.
Both these situations were remedied at the start of OCTOBER when, inspired by Zoltan Gera, we beat Bolton 2-1 and rose to 15th in the table. However a goalless draw at home to Norwich and a defeat away to Crystal Palace led to the departure of Gary Megson. A home defeat to Chelsea rounded off the month.
We almost opened NOVEMBER with an away victory at Southampton, but the home side equalised with just minutes remaining. Bryan Robson was appointed Manager in the week preceding the home game against Middlesbrough, but he began empty handed, thanks to the miss of the season by Kanu in the final minute of the match.
Memorable Match No.1: Bryan Robson's credibility rose when in a battling performance at Highbury, Albion held the Champions to a 1-1 draw, with a late equaliser from substitute Rob Earnshaw.
There followed five defeats in a row, including a demoralising loss at Portsmouth where we led until five minutes from the end and thrashings at the hands of Birmingham City and Liverpool. Not only were we bottom at CHRISTMAS, but at the halfway point of the season, on BOXING DAY, we were stranded on 10 points, five away from safety.
Memorable Match No.2: At Manchester City we were reduced to ten men around the quarter-hour mark and failed to register a single shot, yet remarkably we drew 1-1 thanks to a brilliant performance from Russell Hoult and a comical own goal past David James five minutes from time.
We began JANUARY with two draws, before winning at Preston in the FA Cup and losing to a heartbreaking last minute goal at Fulham. We then picked up our first win under Bryan Robson, 2-0 at home to Man City, but it was not enough to lift us off the foot of the table. We faced Spurs in the next round of the Cup and after a home draw were beaten in the replay, the Londoners gaining dubious penalties in both games.
Memorable Match No.3: In FEBRUARY we faced games against our three relegation rivals. In the first of these, at home to Crystal Palace, we took the lead, they had a man sent off, but still they equalised. On the stroke of full time we scored what we thought was the winner, only for Palace to score again three minutes into injury time.
At Norwich we led twice, but lost to a late goal, whereas at home to Southampton we drew nil-nil. MARCH began with a home win in the local derby against Blues, before we suffered a narrow defeat at Chelsea.
Memorable Match No.4: The Baggies produced an outstanding performance to win at Charlton for the first time in over fifty years. Geoff Horsfield gave us the lead, then after the Addicks levelled, substitute Rob Earnshaw netted a tremendous 16 minute hat-trick.
We started APRIL with a home win against Everton and then travelled to Villa Park.
Memorable Match No.5: We deservedly trailed Villa at half time, but a tremendous second half performance culminated, in the last minute of injury time, in a stupendous equaliser from Paul Robinson.
A hard earned point followed at Spurs, but missed chances meant we were stuffed 4-0 at Middlesbrough. We were counting on winning our game in hand, but could only draw 1-1 at home to Blackburn.
We entered MAY with three games to play and in the first of these we lost at home to Arsenal.
Memorable Match No.6: We awaited the Saturday evening kick-off at Old Trafford knowing that only a draw in the Palace v Southampton match would guarantee that Albion's "Great Escape" bid would go to the last game. Saints equalised with seconds of injury time remaining. Against Man Utd we trailed to a dodgy free kick but went on to draw, thanks to a Rob Earnshaw penalty and a spectacular performance from substitute goalkeeper Thomasz Kuszczak.
On the last day of the season there were four teams battling to avoid the drop. Because we started the day in last place, we needed to win at home and hope that none of the other three would gain a victory.
Memorable Match No.7: Norwich began in pole position, then Southampton took their place. Saints were slipping when just before the hour mark Geoff Horsfield gave us the lead against Portsmouth and we were staying up. Horrendously, Palace scored a penalty to overtake us. Richardson made our game safe, but it needed a late Charlton equaliser in the South London derby to ensure that we avoided the drop. Cue tremendous celebrations from both the Albion and Pompey fans.
In one match we were rated BRILLIANT, there were six VERY GOOD and nine GOOD ratings. Next came two FAIRLY GOOD and eight FAIR.
Two BATTLING and one DETERMINED indicate effort without success. There was one FRUSTRATING, another EXASPERATING, a DISAPPOINTING and a HEARTBREAKING, summing up many fans emotions at the time, I imagine.
Then we're down to a couple of GOOD IN PARTS, before descending to a NOT GOOD ENOUGH, two POOR, a VERY POOR, two DISMAL and an AWFUL.
Top rating went to ZOLTAN GERA with SEVEN awards, followed by NEIL CLEMENT with FIVE plus one shared and JONATHAN GREENING with FOUR.
Darren Purse gained THREE awards early on and Kieran Richardson and Paul Robinson both picked up THREE later in the season.
TWO awards went to Kanu, Thomas Gaardsoe, Rob Earnshaw, Russell Hoult, Ronnie Wallwork and Geoff Horsfield. Jason Koumas netted ONE plus one shared. There were SINGLE awards to Cosmin Contra, Richard Chaplow and Thomasz Kuszczak.
It's common knowledge that our form after Boxing Day was as follows:
P W D L F A PTS 19 5 9 5 21 20 24
When compared to the rest of the Premiership over their last nineteen matches, we would find ourselves 10TH, just inside the top half. Pleasingly we'd be the top Midland side ahead of Villa (13th) and Blues (14th).
The top three places would be unchanged, but Bolton would be 4th and Champions League qualifiers Everton would be below the Baggies in 15th place.
Going down, not Crystal Palace (16th) or Southampton (17th), but Charlton Athletic, Norwich City and rock bottom Portsmouth (perhaps they're missing Harry and Jim more than they think).
The closest I got to being a clairvoyant was writing this at the end of the Norwich report:
"Finally, providing we can bounce back from this latest disappointment, we do now look capable of winning Premiership matches. However the target of doubling our points total to 34 over the final 12 games (with say 4 wins, 5 draws, 3 defeats) looks beyond us and that's probably what we'd need to do to give ourselves a reasonable chance."
That is EXACTLY what happened, even down to the number of wins, draws and defeats, what a pity I expressed doubts about it occurring.
Hope this was of interest, I'm now signing off for the Summer.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated