GOING into Sunday’s high noon derby with Crystal Palace, after an extremely disappointing one-point haul from the last three games, is not exactly ideal preparation.
The game could yet prove to be one of the most important league games against our South London rivals in recent years.
While class and form are a big factor in any season, luck will also play a part. Losing both Will Hoskins and Craig Mackail-Smith to season-ending injuries, even before Ashley Barnes decided to trip up the ref at Bolton, was always going to make things difficult.
In the wake of the aforementioned back-to-back defeats at Bolton and Barnsley respectively, Gus Poyet is frantically trying to bring in a loan striker to ease the Albion’s shortcomings in that department, possibly in time for the Palace game on Sunday.
At the same time, and not for the first time, the recent Albion form has attracted negative comments from a very small section of support. Replacing Poyet with Paolo Di Canio is not, in my opinion, the answer.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying if the Albion were stupid enough to axe Poyet, they would be better off appointing Charlie Caroli, rather than the former Swindon boss.
There is no doubt in the eyes of most Albion fans, and possibly Palace for that matter, that the two league fixtures each season are “The” games of the year.
Hatred is a very strong word and often bandied around, although, as a youngster at the Goldstone and Selhurst Park, I’ve probably sung on numerous occasions that I hate Palace but is it really hate in the real definition of the word?
Over the years, I have met and been friends with a number of Palace fans. In some ways, I looked upon it as a form of voluntary work, but, seriously, away from the football, nothing changes. It’s just when the two teams meet that some degree of normality goes out of the window.
With a near sell-out crowd, the atmosphere at the Amex will be electric and, despite some recent indifferent form, perhaps this will be the catalyst the Albion players need to re-ignite the play-off challenge?
As much as both sets of supporters will scream and shout on Sunday, and I hope both teams serve up a classic, that’s as far as it goes.
So far at the Amex, it’s been almost entirely trouble free and providing the kind of atmosphere and environment that all real football fans want at a stadium. I just hope a few idiots from either club don’t spoil it for the 28,000-or-so who want to see a traditional derby game, with even more at stake than usual.
Prediction wise, I can’t and won’t tip the Palace, blind faith, blue and white tinted specs, call it what you want, I still believe that Gus Poyet is the man to lead the Albion to the Premier League.
And, I firmly believe that, despite the injury set-backs, on their day this Albion side can beat anyone in the Championship, as they proved at leaders Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, so, therefore, I take the Albion to win 2-0.