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Preston North End v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: WBA fan Louis says they played “free-flowing attacking football” under Tony Mowbray!

Ahead of tonight’s match against West Brom, Matty spoke to Louis Bent of The Baggies Podcast to discuss how their team has changed since going from Steve Bruce to Carlos Corberán!

Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Sunderland fans know exactly how it feels to watch the demise of a Steve Bruce side, what were the factors behind his sacking back in October?

Louis Bent: It probably comes across as quite obvious, but a lack of results led to his dismissal. Performances at the beginning of the season were very promising, especially against the likes of Watford and Burnley.

But Albion drew both of those games and as players when you’re playing at your best level you want to be seeing the rewards for those performances. When those results didn’t come you could see confidence in the players dwindling and the standards began to drop.

MC: The man who replaced him, Carlos Coberan, guided Huddersfield to the playoff final last season, what has he changed so far and how did Baggies view this appointment?

LB: I think most Albion fans were pretty positive about it. A minority compared it to the failed hiring of Valerien Ismael who’d seen relative success with Barnsley but the majority were optimistic. We didn’t see much of a change from the Bruce era in his opening match, but afterwards the fans began to see the quality of coaching, particularly defensively.

The back-line seems to be a little deeper than when Bruce was in charge and definitely more organised. We had a problem of conceding goals early in games but that appears to have been completely eradicated under Corberan.

Huddersfield Town v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Carlos Corberán previously worked as Marcelo Bielsa’s assistant manager at Leeds.
Photo by John Early/Getty Images

MC: After a difficult start, Coberan has won three consecutive matches without conceding, like Steve Cooper did last season with Nottingham Forest, do you think a playoff push can still happen?

LB: We certainly hope so! And the appointment has all the hallmarks of Cooper’s at Forest, a young progressive coach taking over a good squad with high expectations before the season starts.

There’s a long road ahead but there’s still that fear that the players may revert back into their shells, we just hope that the results they’ve been getting will start to breed confidence.

MC: The highlight of Tony Mowbray’s managerial career was winning the Championship with West Brom, what style of play did that team play and how is Mowbray viewed amongst Baggies?

LB: Mowbray will always get a good reception from Albion fans. The Championship winning season he had with us was terrific and will live long in the memory of many supporters. In fact, plenty of fans would’ve taken him following the expiration of his contract at Blackburn.

The best way to describe the style of play used during that season has to be free-flowing attacking football. He always used to talk about loving players with ‘lovely soft feet’ which was his way of saying they were comfortable on the ball – the most ideal way to sum up his style.

Championship Play-off Semi-Final First Leg: Wolverhampton Wanderers v WBA
Tony Mowbray guided West Brom to the 2007/08 Championship title, where Kevin Phillips was his top scorer with 22 goals.
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

MC: This will be West Brom’s first league match in one month, since your 2-0 victory over Alex Neil’s Stoke side, how did the club spend the break and do you think it came at a good time?

LB: Corberan took the players to Spain for a training camp in Costa Blanca on the east coast of the country.

Two separate sides played a half each against La Liga strugglers Elche, which ended in a 1-0 victory. There was fairly limited correspondence on the game but there were a couple of chances for us in it.

The break probably came at the worst possible time for us having won three on the bounce prior to it, we’d have liked to continue with that momentum.

MC: Moving onto the players, John Swift is West Brom’s top scorer with just 4 goals, is creating chances an issue or are the strikers just not performing?

LB: Well, Swift is supposed to be the one who creates the chances, which probably says a lot about some of our scoring issues.

We’ve only scored one goal from open play since Corberan joined which is a slight concern, but there’s definitely scope to improve that with striker Daryl Dike coming back from injury.

West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship
Striker Brandon Thomas-Asante was signed from Salford in the summer and has scored three goals so far for the club.
Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images

MC: Looking at your summer recruitment, three free agents were signed in September, as well as your sole forward signing coming from League Two on deadline day, were fans happy with your signings?

LB: The transfer business is the thing most fans have given Bruce credit for.

Plenty of experience and Championship quality coming in on free transfers along with some wildcards to bring off the bench. Summer was very fruitful for us in terms of signings.

MC: Which West Brom players do you think Sunderland will have to be wary of?

LB: After his performance against Birmingham City earlier in the season, he’s probably the last player most would expect to be given this title, but Kyle Bartley has been lethal from set pieces since Corberan joined, grabbing two goals in his last two games from corners.

He’s also improved massively in a defensive aspect but is a slight injury doubt at the moment.

Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Former Arsenal, Swansea and Leeds defender Kyle Bartley will be one to watch on set pieces for West Brom.
Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images

MC: In terms of tactical approach, how do you think Corberan will set up and which eleven players do you think will play?

LB: It’ll be more of the same from Corberan, sit deep and look to hit on the break. Most likely to sit in that 4-2-3-1 shape that he’s found joy with so far.

(4-3-2-1) Alex Palmer, Darnell Furlong, Dara O’Shea, Kyle Bartley, Conor Townsend, Okay Yokuslu, Jayson Molumby, Matt Phillips, John Swift, Jed Wallace, Brandon Thomas-Asante.

MC: Sunderland haven’t beaten West Brom in six matches, spanning back to 2014 - what is your prediction for the final score?

LB: It’s been a while since we’ve come up against Sunderland, with our last meeting back in 2016/17. But I think we’ll continue with more of the same – 1-0 Albion.


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