The third Mowbray Derby of the season takes place on Monday night as we host a rejuvenated West Bromwich Albion, aired LIVE once again by our friends at Sky Sports. In fact this is the tenth time the Lads have been chosen for live broadcast this season, before you even take into account the Blackburn and Middlesbrough games already booked in.. and that magic red button on your remote control.
I have no doubt all that extra revenue will be invested straight back into the playing squad.. or maybe just top up Juan Sartori’s political campaign, or Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ ski trips. I jest, we all know there’s a long answer somewhere in the depths of Kristjaan Speakman’s vocabulary.
Is it a new manager bounce if you take over from Steve Bruce? Well whatever it is, Carlos Corberán is certainly getting a tune out of the Baggies now, taking them from rock bottom to three wins on the bounce all featuring clean sheets. They still linger painfully close to the drop zone, but owing to the bizarre nature of this league, are only a couple of wins and draws from the play offs.
Life as a coach has been particularly hard and fast for the Spanish coach who learned his trade under Marcelo Bielsa, then dragged Huddersfield to the brink of the Premier League last season, before a brief (and unsuccessful) stint at Olympiakos. 12 games in Corberán’s sacking from the Greek giants timed perfectly with the available post at the Hawthorns, what wasn’t good timing was the World Cup break.
Here’s hoping that all that positive momentum that WBA built up before the break has all but been forgotten and they are somehow shit again, but that is doubtful as now Corberán has been afforded a mid-season pre-season. Previously a tinker man, the head coach is likely to shape up a 4-2-3-1 led up top by striker Brandon Thomas-Asante who was bought for a few quid from League Two Salford City. In their latest win against evil Alex Neil’s Stoke City, the young forward was the exponent of a snazzy overhead kick which topped-up Kyle Bartley’s opener.
Wingers Jed Wallace and Matty Phillips will look to cause the home team a few problems, along with £7m summer signing John Swift sat in the number ten role. Jake Livermore is still around the squad, and it’s hard to imagine he managed to accumulate seven England caps under our current England manager. But if you look at the squads back then, they are a far cry from the talent at Gareth Southgate’s disposal now. Ah well, at least I have France in the office sweepstake.
For the Lads it is likely to be the moment we’ve all been waiting for as Ross Stewart is a shoe-in to feature in his first match day squad since that ill-fated Monday night, Mowbray Derby against Boro back in September. The in-form Ellis Simms should continue to lead the line in what could be an unchanged side, though it would be good to see Niall Huggins back in the squad as orthodox full backs are lacking somewhat. The challenge for Mowbray will be to get both Aji Alese and Dennis Cirkin into the same side, a problem further compounded by the imminent return of Dan Ballard. This is a nice problem however and much like the Revel-loving gaffer’s other selection dilemma of Patrick Roberts or Amad Diallo.
What is encouraging is the form of Alex Prtichard and he was the key that unlocked Millwall last time out, aided by the number nine he has been craving to pivot off for so many months. The time is now to make the stadium a fortress again, and what better way to do it then being the headline Monday night game.
West Brom are a functional and direct outfit, traditionally a threat from set pieces – we are none of those. What we are is a flare, possession-based team looking to score great goals, and we don’t fear anyone. Take it to the Baggies and bag the points. Ha’way the Lads.