Welcome back to Fan Focus. It only seems like two minutes since we did the last one, but here we are for another week, with a brand new fan as we build-up to the West Brom game.
Joining us today is Neil Bell, a loyal Baggies season ticket holder for over 23 years in the Birmingham Road End. Neil's fondest memories over that time include notably for us, the famous last-day escape from Relegation, when Bryan Robson's side, inspired by an on-loan Kieran Richardson avoided the drop.
Neil also shares with us fans a fondness for Kevin Phillips, but he can't hold a candle to Neil's all-time hero - Bob Taylor.
So with regards to this weekend's we put forward some questions, and here's how he got on...
A season of ups and downs for WBA to say the least this season – what’ s the ride been like?
Neil: Pretty much every emotion has been felt so far this season, from the elation of winning at Arsenal, the only team to take a point at Old Trafford so far, the thumping win at Everton, to the real lows of Christmas time, where I think to most fans that horrible sinking feeling we’ve all felt too often in the Premiership reared it’s ugly head again. We’ve now gone full circle with Hodgson in charge and the belief and confidence is back.
I along with the rest of the football community was shocked when Roberto Di Matteo got the boot. Was it a deserved dismissal?
Neil: Unfortunately my only answer to this is a resounding yes. From October onwards we were on a downward spiral that unfortunately Robbie just didn’t seem to able to get us out of. Goals were being conceded for fun, the confidence from the early part of the season was long gone, strange tactical decisions, whispers from the club that everything just wasn’t right, all pointed to one thing and that was us parting ways. Whether the timing was right is another question though, to do it straight after the transfer window had closed was a very strange decision. From what I understand the win against Blackpool in January kept him in the job for slightly longer, but surely if the chairman had made his decision it should have happened whatever the outcome.
Roy Hodgson’s in now of course, what differences do you see in the team from Di Matteo’s?
Neil: One word – Organisation. What Hodgson has done with this team in his 6 or 7 weeks in charge is quite amazing, and should he keep us up I think it will answer anyone who has let his Liverpool reign cloud their judgment. The football is still the same (we like to think we try and play it on the ground) but we look so much more solid under Roy, and there’s certainly been a more physical approach to our game that I’ ve never seen Albion produce in the Premiership. I think we’ve always been seen as a ‘nice’ team, firstly under Mowbray then Di Matteo, we certainly seem a bit more streetwise now.
Do you think he’ll guide you to safety?
Neil: Tough one, Saturdays result has given us a massive chance now but with it being so tight at the bottom it’s a tough call. I’ll go for yes, but everything is still crossed!
Who from the Baggies line-up do you think will be the one to give us the most problems?
Neil: Peter Odemwingie – I’m sure you still remember him from August, he’s been excellent for us this season and probably had his best game for us on Saturday against Liverpool.
And conversely – Which on the field match-ups worry you most when it comes to our players?
Neil: I think Gyan has the ability to cause our defenders some real problems, were not the quickest at the back and he’s the one who worries me most. I also (from the very little I’ve seen of him granted) like the look of Sessegnon, I’ll be interested to see how he plays.
We’re nearing the seasons end… Who’s you early nomination for WBA player of the season?
Neil: Youssouf Mulumbu – as the song goes ‘He comes from Africa, he’s better than Kaka’ says it all really! £150k from PSG and an absolute bargain. He’s been immense for us this season, the defensive midfielder we’ve missed for a long, long time and a real fans favourite. We just hope he will still be here next season.
And lastly mate, what’s your prediction for the game?
Neil: I’ve said a draw all week so I’ll stick with it, 1-1. I did fancy us for a win before your result Sunday but I think we could be on for a bit of a backlash.
Thanks very much, and look forward to catching up with you after the game!
Don't forget to listen to the Roker Report Podcast, which you can listen to HERE until we manage to get on iTunes. Thanks!