In recent times this has always counted as one of the more enjoyable away trips, even if the reasons for this are more to do with extra-curricular activity associated with following football teams, as opposed to the football itself. But on this occasion, a trip to the Hawthorns takes on extra meaning for both sides, and both sets of fans.
A lot of attention has been paid to West Brom lately due to the slightly baffling dismissal of Steve Clarke, a good man and renowned coach, after their defeat to Cardiff City last week. A lot of attention continues to be aimed City’s way too but much more for off-field activity than for anything on it. The huge majority of fans that oppose the name change now have to wait for the FA to rule and get back to majoring on what they are best at – supporting the team. And it’s time we won again.
Since doing over Liverpool so beautifully, City have lost one and drawn two. None of these results were a disgrace but a victory in the build-up to a mega period that coincided with the turn of 2014 will be most timely. Manchester United and Liverpool (again) loom large, with an arguably bigger occasion against Fulham in between. If City can enter the hectic festive section of the season with three fresh points then all the better.
Steve Bruce is without Robbie Brady, whose groin injury continues to hamper him, and he simply hasn’t looked at the races since his hernia op a month or so back. He is the only fresh casualty and was on the bench anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the XI that began against both Swansea and Stoke does so once more.
West Brom may bring back Ben Foster, which will be a pity for the City fans hoping to applaud Boaz Myhill towards the goal at the away end, but otherwise caretaker boss Keith Downing doesn’t have any other worries.
City have a mixed record at the Hawthorns though have recorded immortal victories on each of the last two visits – the oh-blimey-we-must-get-promoted-now win thanks to Caleb Folan’s late goal in the spring of 2008, and the only previous Premier League visit there at the end of the same calendar year which saw the Tigers briefly top the table after scoring three without reply.
The bookies have 19/20 on Albion, 3/1 on City doing it and 5/2 price on the draw. Bit of a windfall to fund some last-ditch Christmas shopping? Well, let’s see. But despite the superstition that goes with alleged ‘new manager syndrome’, this one is eminently winnable for City and will be high on the list of status-saving fixtures put together by Bruce.