Ahead of our opening home fixture against West Brom we spoke to Mark Thomas, the Editor of “Albion Till We Die“, to get their views on Everton, West Brom and the new Premier League season.
On West Brom
Q. Have West Brom been busy in the transfer market, which of the new signings are you particularly excited about?
Much to the frustration of the vast majority of Albion fans the club have not been particularly busy this summer, in fact you can say we’ve been dragging our heels for most of it. We’ve brought in Nicholas Anelka and Diego Lugano both on frees and Matej Vydra on loan. For the last few weeks we’ve been attempting to sign Salomon Kalou and Scott Sinclair but as it stands right now both look doubtful. Vydra for me is the most intriguing signing, if he can reproduce the form he showed at Watford last season he might surprise a few Premier League defenders.
Q. You have signed Anelka to replace Lakaku, can he have the same impact?
It would be nice to think so but I’m not convinced myself. His record speaks for itself and he has been impressive in pre-season but his last decent season was three years ago. Lukaku is going to be a huge miss for us this season.
Q. West Brom had a fantastic season last year, do you think Steve Clarke can improve the team further?
If given the right backing in the transfer market I think he could build a decent team that could once again push for a top 8 finish. Unfortunately he is unlikely to get that backing with our current chairman.
Q. How has your pre-season gone?
Well we won 6 out of 8 games but of those eight teams only three could be classed as ‘decent’ opposition. As mentioned previously Anelka has impressed along with last season’s disappointment Markus Rosenberg. If the strike duo can carry their form into the season proper then we might be looking at a decent start.
Q. What are your hopes for the new season?
Personally I’d be happy with a mid-table finish. I can’t see us repeating last season’s success with our current squad although if we do somehow manage to snare Kalou and Sinclair then I might be a bit more optimistic. I think we’ll finish around 14th.
Q. Last season West Brom did very well at home against Everton, marking an inform Fellaini out of the game, but then lost at Goodison in pretty disappointing fashion. What were your thoughts on Everton last season?
I think it was a typical David Moyes’ Everton team. Extremely well organised and hard to beat. Under Moyes you always expected them to finish top 6 or 7, perhaps never quite good enough for the top 4 but certainly among the best of the rest.
Q. We are under a new manager for the first time in 12 years, what are your thoughts on Roberto Martinez?
I think he’s a likeable enough guy and I do like the way he got Wigan playing but I fall into the camp of those questioning as to whether he is slightly overrated, especially given Wigan’s struggles year after year. It will certainly be interesting as to whether he can achieve success at Goodison playing the ‘Wigan’ way.
Q. Where do you think Everton will finish this season?
It will obviously be a transitional season for Everton and I’ve a feeling you may have to accept losing more games than you have been used to recently. It’s a big ask for any manager to produce instant success, especially having to follow in the footsteps of someone like Moyes. I think you’ll finish around 10th.
Q. Which Everton player do you most admire?
Fellaini for sure. Big, strong, athletic, scores goals. I’d love him in our midfield.
On the Premier League
Q. Who do you think will be…
All eyes are on Chelsea and Manchester United but I’ve a feeling Manchester City might just sneak it this season.
The surprise package?
Not sure if they can be really classed as a surprise package anymore but I can see Swansea having another decent season.
I think out of the promoted teams Palace and Hull are most likely to drop back down. Add to them one from Cardiff, Norwich and Stoke.
The best signing?
Neither have happened yet but if Chelsea were to get Rooney and Arsenal signed Suarez I think the pair would fight it out for that honour.
Player of the Year?
I think it will be between the usual suspects, Bale if he stays, van Persie, Mata, Aguero,
It’s hard to see past van Persie again.
On the fixture
Q. What is your score prediction?
Our recent record at Goodison isn’t too good but I fancy us for a draw this time. 1-1
Q. What do you expect to be the West Brom starting XI?
Barring any significant transfers prior to the game Clarke will probably go with: Foster, Jones, Olsson, MaCauley, Ridgewell, Morrison, Yacob, Mulumbu, Brunt, Rosenberg and Anelka.
Q. Which West Brom player should we look out for?
I think for his first few games all eyes will be on Anelka and whether he’s still ‘got’ it.