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West Bromwich Albion is an historic club, not least for its association with Cyril Regis, the striker who was a trailblazer for fellow black footballers and who tragically died this week, sparking grief throughout the footballing community.
Yet for all of the club’s history, this season has been almost completely lacking in inspiration, verve or indeed, interest. A run of 10 games without a win saw Tony Pulis sacked in November, with his replacement coming in the form of Alan Pardew.
Fans prayed for not just a change in results, but a change in style. Pulis’ pragmatic, defensive approach had left Baggies fans, in the hope of feeling something, anything, scratching their eyeballs out on many occasions and as much as Pardew’s remit was to thrust his new side out of the relegation zone, it was also to entertain.
Just over two months after joining West Brom, Pardew has so far failed to make much of an impact. 5 draws and a win mean his tenure so far has not been a calamity, yet his side currently sit rock bottom of the Premier League, and losses to relegation rivals Swansea and Stoke are cause for concern.
However, West Brom’s shock win away to Liverpool in the FA Cup suggested that the wheels might just be starting to turn. The result was a shock on many fronts, not only did the Baggies win, they scored 3 goals away from home, a feat which under Pulis would surely have led to club fines for defensive irresponsibility.
Factor in the sides’ victory against Brighton, their first since the second match of the season, and there is certainly cause for optimism, especially as only 6 points currently separate the Baggies from 11th placed Watford.
However, what will surely be causing the most excitement around the Hawthorns will be the recently announced signing of Daniel Sturridge, on loan from Liverpool. Having been set for a move to Newcastle, Sturridge turned down the chance to work with Rafa in favour of moving ‘back home’, being as he is from Birmingham.
Sturridge’s struggles under Jurgen Klopp have been well documented, the Englishman has been firmly out of favour under the German, not fitting in with the high intensity approach that Klopp demands from his side. Equally, Sturridge’s injury record has been a hot topic for pundits and fans alike with many suggesting the forward refuses to play through the pain that many other professionals regularly do.
However, what is not up for debate is Daniel Sturridge’s talent. Alan Pardew claimed his new recruit is in the same category as Harry Kane and in terms of ability, Pardew is justified in his comparison.
Studge, as he is lovingly known, has 74 Premier League goals from 114 starts and 194 appearances in total while he will be best remembered for the role he played in Liverpool’s (nearly) title winning season in 2013/14 where he scored 21 goals in 29 games, some of which were utterly sublime.
At 28 Sturridge has gas left in the tank, but it is looking increasingly as though his time at the top is over.
West Brom are therefore in a win win, either Sturridge uses the club as a platform to get back to his best and reestablish his reputation as one of the best strikers in the League, also working his way into World Cup consideration, or he settles at the club, in which case West Brom will have some serious quality on their hands, even if he doesn’t reach his absolute pinnacle.
In short though, Sturridge represents a fantastic acquisition for the Baggies. What they need is a goal scorer and Daniel Sturridge, if nothing else, is one of those. West Brom have work horses, they have defensively astute players who can stifle opponents and grab the odd winner from a corner, but what they lack is magic.
The ability to create something out of nothing is something that has been missing from the side for a long time, perhaps since Lukaku spent a season on loan and Sturridge will bring it with his arrogance, his selfishness, his nonchalance and his clinical edge.
With Jay Rodriguez showing signs of returning to the quality that would have earned him an England call up had he not suffered a broken leg, and with Grzegorz Krychowiak showing hints of the quality that saw him win two Europa Leagues and earn a big money move to PSG, in addition to Jonny Evans staying put, West Brom might just be onto something.
Factor in Daniel Sturridge and safety looks like a realistic possibility, all they need to do now is keep him fit.
Written by Scott Pope
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