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Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: West Brom fan Andy says that the sacking of Tony Mowbray seems “incredibly harsh”

We spoke to West Brom fan Andy Caulton ahead of Sunderland’s game today to find out more about Carlos Corberán’s side. Which West Brom players should we be wary of?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Former West Brom manager Tony Mowbray was sacked as Sunderland manager earlier this week. What were your thoughts on this from an outside perspective?

Just six months ago, WBA got outschooled by a very young, vibrant, easy-on-the-eye, Sunderland team, coached in the typical Mowbray way.

Mowbray has SO much love and credibility at WBA, created some lovely teams, and his DNA of how to play the game sat well with us, as we have always had a reputation for being a footballing team, Mowbray has NEVER compromised that philosophy.

I was stunned yesterday, one win away from the playoffs and made the playoffs last season on, like Corberán, a very limited budget. I’ll be fascinated to see what Sunderland’s Plan B is.

Seemed an incredibly hasty move to me, I’m sure the Rokerites, as I knew your fans for so many seasons, have a more balanced and solid view, but from the outside looking in, this is incredibly harsh.

On the topic of managers, Carlos Corberán has been doing an excellent job since taking over relegation-threatened West Brom in October last season. What are the main factors behind his success?

To take over from rock bottom Steve Bruce, with us in 24th place, and take us, momentarily in the top 3 inside just over a year after losing your captain and having a transfer policy that is frozen, speaks huge volumes of the work Corberán has done.

The main factor has been on the training ground, Corberán is a driven individual whose preparation for each game is absolutely second to none, and without his recruitment, I hate to think where we might be today. Outstanding job, only hope we can keep him for as long as possible.

West Bromwich Albion’s manager Tony Mowbr
Tony Mowbray won the Championship with West Brom back in 2008.
Photo credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

West Brom are currently fifth with the second-best defensive record in the division. Do you think the club are contenders to go up via the playoffs this season?

No doubt it’s going to be Leicester plus one for automatic and I see nothing to change my mind from Saturday’s close defeat against them.

This is going to be a wonderful race for the playoffs, with some really good teams at the top end of the division, I would say we are great contenders FOR the playoffs, but to actually get promoted will be a much tougher proposition.

Looking off the pitch, the Baggies’ ownership troubles are well documented and no transfer fees were spent in the summer. What is the latest with your boardroom troubles?

The latest in terms of the boardroom is just one more layer of awful concern, an extra loan on top of the £20m at extortionate rates of interest that we secured last year, JUST to pay for day to day expenses of running the club.

In any business model, it is a disaster waiting to happen. There has been so-called ‘interest’ in taking over the club, from my neck of the woods now, the US, but nothing is set in stone.

The absolute worry is we sell in January and with 23 players' contracts running out in June 2024, with many of our best players in that group, such as Kipre, Mowatt and Fellows, and veterans like Phillips and Bartley, the future is murky, to say the least.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One
Josh Maja scored 17 goals in 49 appearances for Sunderland.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

West Brom’s sole senior permanent signing was ex-Sunderland striker Josh Maja. How would you summarise his time so far at The Hawthorns?

Not really seen what Maja can do as yet, due to signing and not being fit, getting a few games and suffering a serious injury and only making his return as a sub on Saturday, but scoring his first goal as well.

My first impressions are we have an athletic, intelligent striker, with not many other striking options, it’s vital Maja steps up, and I’m really hoping and quietly optimistic he will.

He looked good in France last season on the YouTube highlights, and scored some good goals for you as well, in the past.

Looking throughout your squad, there is so much Premier League and top-end Championship experience. Do you think that is the crucial factor that has made not signing many new players not matter as much?

It can be argued some of our experienced players have stayed too long and certainly take a big fraction of our salary. The other problem with aging players is the inevitable injuries.

Matt Phillips has been a revelation under Corberán who rates him highly, but as certain as Christmas is Christmas, a serious Phillips hamstring injury occurs as well. Saturday was tragic as it was predictable, the cold weather somehow overtakes Matt’s resistance to muscle injury, and it’ll be a long time until he returns.

Kyle Bartley missed many games last season, and although his muscle injury was described as minor, it’s probably just a portent for the future.

One of our highest earners on £40K a week is Adam Reach, who hasn’t kicked a ball this season.

The bigger factor is not having any resale value with these players, therefore we are highly unlikely to reinvest in younger players, though saving on their salaries would help.

West Bromwich Albion v Norwich City - Premier League
Alex Pritchard made three appearances for West Brom during a loan spell earlier in his career.
Photo by Adam Fradgley - AMA/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who can Sunderland expect to cause problems?

WBA have a wonderful young player in Tom Fellows, just 20 years old, old old-fashioned winger, with a lovely drop of a shoulder, pace and crosses a lovely ball. Tom may be an impact sub, but with Phillips and Jed Wallace injured, he may start. Tom reminds me a lot of the Sunderland and Baggies winger Kevin Kilbane.

I honestly see WBA as a collective rather than individual, but at set pieces, top scorer who plays as an attacking midfielder, Jon Swift, is one to watch.

The central midfield axis of Mowatt and Yokulsu have been superb, as has, probably our best player this season, defender Cedric Kipre.

Our keeper Alex Palmer is a very good, wonderful shot-stopper, good with his feet as well..

The one individual who is so easy on the eye is Ecuadorian World Cup midfielder Jeremy Sarimiento, just now claiming his starting role from injury after his loan move from Brighton. Sarimiento’s winner in our last away game against Cardiff was just dazzling.

From last season’s game at the Stadium of Light, I remember West Brom being incredibly dangerous from wide areas - how would you describe your style of play under Corberán?

The two wide players from last season’s game are out, [Wallace and Phillips] and sadly there will be no impact sub role for Daryl Dike, who will be back in the New Year. His goal at The Stadium of Light, may well have been his highlight at WBA, apart from his rapid-fire two v Boro at home.

Albion seem to have pushed back from the attacking wing-back play of long-serving and honest defenders, Furlong and Townsend, and I think it’s made us more secure. The width may well be Tom Fellows and Corberán is a VERY patient and animated coach, who will be more than happy to capitalise late in games with impact subs. No doubt, attention to detail will be very much the order of the day for Corberán.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - The Hawthorns
Dennis Cirkin scored a brace when the two sides last met in April.
Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

On the back of your recent 2-1 defeat to Leicester, which 11 players do you think Corberán will select?

(4-2-3-1) Palmer (GK), Furlong, Ajayi, Kipre, Townsend, Mowatt, Yokuslu, Sarimiento, Swift, Fellows or Wallace if fit? Thomas-Asante.

Both sides took 3 points off one another last season. What is your prediction for the final score this time around?

No 3 points for either on Saturday... It’ll be 1-1.


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