CHRIS HUGHTON’S Albion managerial home debut didn’t quite go to plan, with the club’s five match unbeaten run coming to an end with a 1-0 reverse at home to Brentford.
With the Bees very much in the play-off picture, there’s no shame in losing to a very organised and disciplined side but, despite the much-needed change in manager at the Amex, watching the Albion can still be very frustrating.
The arrival of Blackburn striker Leon Best, previously signed by Hughton at Newcastle, earlier in the week, has given the Albion faithful renewed optimism. Fans would have got the chance for a first look at home to Ipswich last night.
Best’s arrival, rather than some supporters’ preferred choice of former Albion favourite, Glenn Murray, typifies the current state of domestic football.
Like many others, I wanted Murray back in the form of a permanent transfer from Crystal Palace and hoped that the club would indicate their ambitions by doing just that, until a chance conversation with someone very much in the know.
Clearly, at the top end of the Championship, players’ contracts have clauses, which sees major wage rises if their respective clubs are promoted to the top flight.
I was aware, and had it confirmed, what Murray was earning when he left the Albion in 2011, I was then told what he allegedly now earns at Selhurst Park.
Needless to say, the figures are light years apart and would create a huge issue if Murray were to ever consider returning to the Albion.
Even a 20 per cent cut would still smash the Albion’s current wage structure. Would the club be prepared to do that? And how many of the current high wage earners would want some kind of parity with Murray’s Albion wages?
It now highlights not only how far the Albion have come from the dark days of Gillingham and their temporary home at Withdean, but how far are they prepared to go to achieve the Premier League dream?
We will all get a taste of the Premier League dream, with the visit of FA Cup holders Arsenal in a sell-out fourth round tie on Sunday, when there will be more than 30,000 at the Amex.
For fans of a certain age, it evokes memories of August 18, 1979, when the Gunners were the visitors for the first-ever First Division fixture in the club’s history.
After Gerry Ryan hit the bar in the early exchanges, the hosts were then given a footballing lesson in the first half. Arsenal had three clear-cut chances and the half-time score was 0-3.
They added a fourth in the second half and Albion’s top-flight adventure had begun with a reality check.
Hopefully, there won’t be a repeat on Sunday.
In fact, despite the Brentford set-back, Hughton appears to have the Albion well organised defensively. At the time of going to press, it’s only one goal conceded in three games.
Clearly, Arsenal will rest players and I’m hoping an Amex record crowd will inspire the Albion to earn a replay at the Emirates in a couple of weeks, with a 1-1 draw.