Harty on... the Albion’s form this season

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HAVING, like a large number of others over the years, witnessed some real lows for the Albion, including seven relegations, it’s still not quite a crisis.

But I left the Amex on Tuesday night with mixed feelings and a number of serious concerns after the Albion’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City.

The result, aided specifically by the outstanding performance of the visiting keeper, David Marshall, certainly flattered the visitors.

But, with ten points for the Albion from ten games, with almost a quarter of the season over, if that form is replicated throughout the campaign, then it’s a relegation fight – and stopping short of the usual ‘par’ safety score of 50 points, an unsuccessful one at that.

On the flip side, with the aforementioned performance by Marshall, who even with Cardiff’s showing in the top flight last season, is arguably, on his day, one of the best keepers in domestic football, the Albion did in parts play well and create a number of chances.

On another night, it might have been a different story, but that’s football.

Sami Hyypia has had to carry out drastic rebuilding after his summer arrival, including the £500,000 purchase of striker Chris O’Grady, which, unfortunately, is looking to be one of the most expensive panic buys in the club’s history.

That in itself is unfair on the player but, clearly, regardless of the opinion of a number of chairmen and directors over the years, Albion fans aren’t stupid.

At this point, a long and successful stay at the club for the player in question looks unlikely.

Part of me hopes I’m proved wrong, then again, how many players of a similar ilk have we seen over the years?

The rest of the squad, including the remainder of the new in-take, will need time to gel.

However, that time in the cauldron of the Championship, is a luxury. By the time they start firing on all cylinders, how far will they be behind the play-off pack?

And, perhaps equally as concerning, how many people will be watching them?

Tuesday night’s attendance of just over 23,000 was clearly down on the corresponding time from the previous couple of seasons.

But as I’ve stated in this column before, with the Amex honeymoon period coming to an end, if people start voting with their feet, scores of empty seats at the Amex won’t do anything for club confidence, both on and off the field.

In short, do I think the Albion will go down?

No, regardless of the form up to now, and without wishing to trot out the often-used phrase, they have, on the face of it, too much quality.

Do I think they will challenge for the play-offs for the third season running?

Again, like the relegation on current form, extremely unlikely. But, then again, it’s not entirely impossible.

Ever the eternal optimist, I can recall Iain Dowie arriving at Selhurst Park in November, 2003, with Palace in dire trouble, only to put a tremendous run together which culminated in a play-off final win at Cardiff against West Ham in May, 2004.

And, if Palace can do it, anyone can.