And 'Bomber Brown' assesses Yacob's first season
ALBION great Ally Robertson believes strong partnerships in the spine of Steve Clarke’s side contributed to last season’s eighth-place Barclays Premier League finish.
The former centre-half pointed to the pairings of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley, and Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu - with all four players appearing in nine of the club’s 14 victories.
And the 60-year-old, who made 506 league appearances for the Baggies between 1968 and 1986, compared the current crop of players with the side he played in during the 1970s - alongside central-defensive partner John Wile, and behind Len Cantello and Bryan Robson in the midfield engine room.
“To do well you still need two good central defenders and two central midfielders,” said Robertson.
“We have had good players in those positions before but now we have good players who have created great partnerships.
“John Wile and I didn’t do any extra training but we knew each other from the first day we played together.
“For a long time Mulumbu and Jonas have been consistently up there with the best players at the club but they have never had real partners.
“Now they each have someone alongside them who they have an understanding with.
“In my time it was John Wile and I, with Len Cantello and Bryan Robson in front of us.
“We all knew how to protect each other.
“I would love to go back through all of last season’s fixtures to see how many points we picked up when Olsson, McAuley, Yacob and Mulumbu all played.”
Albion collected 31 points from the 21 games in which the quartet all appeared last term, at a points-per-game ratio of 1.48.
And Robertson insists Mulumbu in particular has benefited from a stronger understanding with Yacob in the heart of the Baggies’ midfield.
“Once the partnership is working you do what comes naturally to you,” he added.
“You think and work for the person beside you.
“You know each other’s roles and you play your own game.
“That’s why Mulumbu is getting forward more, as before he had too much to cover.
“Football is about understanding the weaknesses and qualities of the other people you’re playing with.
“If the ball used to go over my head John Wile knew he had to cover for me as I wasn’t the quickest.
“In the same way he knew I could read the game better than him.
“Youssouf and Claudio help each other in the same way.
“Everybody benefits from that understanding throughout the team.”
PIC: FORMIDABLE PARTNERSHIP...John Wile congratulates Ally Robertson on scoring against Everton in 1980
Another of Robertson’s former team-mates and fellow Albion legend Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown also praised the impact of Yacob – stating he would have enjoyed playing in the same side as the Argentine.
“Claudio Yacob had an incredible season,” said Brown.
“A lot of people have been crying out for us to get someone in who can protect the back-four for many years.
“Now we have someone who has done that superbly.
“He’s patrolled that midfield and he has made life easier for the back-four.
“A lot of the things he does might go unnoticed to some people, but I’m sure his manager and his team-mates know how important he is to the team.
“I’ve taken to him big time.
“He has the discipline to not get carried away and he knows his role well.
“He lets other people in the team go forward and that’s great for his fellow midfielders.
“It’s also been important for Youssouf Mulumbu as, although he can sit and play Yacob’s role, he is able to go forward as well now.
“You don’t see Yacob running into the opposition’s box trying to get on the end of things.
“I would have loved to have him playing behind me.
“I always played with two players like that behind me and that allowed me to get forward a lot of the time.
“He’d have been ideal in the side I played in.”