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BOWLER’S DELIVERY: Come on feel the noise!

28 October 2015

We’ll get wild, wild, wild on Saturday

IT’S time for one of those reminders about the harshness of Premier League football I’m afraid. 

Never has it been harder to compete, to win points and to score goals in the top flight of English football, the more so since all 20 teams are aware of the size of the pot of gold waiting to be opened at the end of May should survival be secured.

In the teeth of those difficulties and challenges, it’s easy to become frustrated with the game and your team, but let’s take an objective view for a moment shall we?

This Albion side has fought its way into the top half of the table. We don’t concede goals, not often anyway, and we win a goodly portion of our games. If the curse of the TV cameras hadn’t been visited on us so often already – we never do well on the box – we might be even further forward. 

In short, 14 points from 10 games and an eight point cushion to the drop zone represents tidy work thus far.

If there is a problem, it’s that our best work has been done on the road, away from the bulk of our supporters. Home fixtures have been a bit more frustrating, though let’s not forget we met Manchester City and Chelsea early on.

But we aren’t alone in faring better away from home turf. Norwich, Stoke City, Watford, Everton, Palace, West Ham, Arsenal and even Villa have all, like us, collected more points on their travels than at home, while Southampton’s are equally shared. That’s nearly half the league.

It suggests the nature of the game is changing, the old certainties dropping away. The days when teams just piled on at home and looked to blow the opposition away? That joke isn’t funny any more. Nowadays, well organised, well drilled sides simply soak it up and then turn you over on the counter-attack. It’s a different game.

And so we, as supporters, need to adapt in just the same way that players and coaches do.

In the past, it was all about frenzy, about working everything up to fever pitch and driving the lads on. That hasn’t changed, not a bit of it. If anything, it’s more important than ever.

But we need to add a side salad of patience to the raw meat of our screaming because these days, few teams are going to allow themselves to be simply overrun. Instead, they come here and as the oft repeated managerial cliché goes, “we look to quieten the crowd in the first 20 minutes”.

So if that’s the opposition’s game plan, why don’t we muck it up for them? Why don’t we refuse to be quietened by them soaking up pressure, wasting time, managing the game? 

If they want us to shut up, why don’t we tell them to get stuffed and turn up the volume again and again and again? I know it isn’t easy if the game is locked at 0-0 after 60 minutes and neither goalkeeper has had a shot to save, but then again, it isn’t easy being a player in the middle of all that either. If we want to go quiet on them, give them stick, then aren’t we failing in our duty as well?

We are all Albion fans, we will be here forever, long after these players, this staff, this kit. But they are our players, our shirts and all the while they are in them, for the good of the Albion, the thing that matters to us all, we should be doing our level best to send them deaf with the constancy and the volume of our support.

So on Saturday, get to The Hawthorns a bit earlier, ignore the preamble and all the hoopla that goes on around you and turn the clock back to the old days. Start singing at half past two, turn the place into a cauldron, and don’t shut up until five o’clock. 

And, in the unlikely event that the game has let you down, then you can let everyone know about it. But let’s all of us, the lifeblood of the Albion, make a pact between ourselves shall we? We won’t let the Albion down. We can’t ask any more of ourselves than that can we?

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