West Bromwich Albion seemed an obvious choice for me as the local team to support when I moved over to Birmingham in January. Aston Villa was very quickly discounted: any club David Cameron professed an affiliation to was not one I could cheer in good stead. That left Birmingham City and West Bromwich; and I want to say it was WBA’s Premiership status that swung the vote, but truth be told, for both teams yo-yoing between the two top flights is very much an occupational hazard.
So between the two, my heart said the Albion because of the United link: a number of United old boys are doing well here: Jonny Evans, Darren Fletcher and Ben Foster; and my favourite midfield maestro Bryan Robson was an Albion alum before making the trek to Old Trafford.
West Bromwich Albion is not a rich club, by any means. It isn’t even located in a particularly affluent part of Birmingham: in 2016 West Bromwich itself was named as the most deprived area in the UK. This contrasts greatly with the other club of my heart, my first love now estranged by my reluctance to partake in excessive money football.
I have since made it to a few home games – mainly out of opportunity rather than anything else; and to date the home games I have missed have been due to conflicting schedules. Having purchased a club membership – a princely sum of £6, relative to about five times that for United (it was three times that even in 2002), having dibs on tickets to home games where you are not stuck in Tier 3 nearer the Earth’s orbit than the pitch, is nice.
My first home game this season – the game against Middlesborough – I was treated to a season ticket holder’s unused seat, and smack dab in the cheering section of the home team: the Smethwick End. Not knowing too many cheer songs going in, I could certainly join in with a few on my way out. My favourite is “He’s magic you know… You can’t get past Claudio…” in tribute to Claudio Yacob, who, in my eyes at least, is far from magic and quite a hapless defender by Premiership standards. But the fans love him and maybe given time I too might find a certain fondness for the Argentinian.
The second game I went to was against Spurs – a ticket I bought full price because I wanted good, pitch side seat, and a pitch side seat I did get: right across the aisle from one Harry Kane, no less (who was injured and watched the game from the stands). The spice of the game was the presence of WBA’s new signing Nacer Chadli from Spurs, a creative midfielder with a penchant for scoring but was very much (in my opinion) under-utilised in Pochettino’s side. It wasn’t him, though, that impressed me most but speedy defender Allan Nyom, another recent signing, who could pretty much sprint up and down the field at a pace that annoyed the Spurs attack. If only his distribution was more on point…
It remains to be seen whether I would go to the next home game: Burnley at home on a Monday night in November might be equivalent to the ‘wet Tuesday night away at Stoke’ in terms of the casual fan – but for £15 it might be quite a steal. Burnley after all held their own at Old Trafford only last weekend.
It is different going to a game where the team you are rooting most likely would lose or draw rather than win, and that is the given expectation: where a win (and three points) is a bonus; avoidance of a relegation battle more the aim than getting any sort of trophy. But it’s fun and perhaps fits better with my curmudgeonly old self: once enamoured by the big teams and their attractive play, now disenchanted by the amount of money pouring into the game and the pockets of the few. West Bromwich Albion, albeit foreign owned (as are all the major Midland clubs, it seems) are just happy to be playing in the top division of one of the best leagues in the world, and I am just happy to be watching them and cheering them on.
Boing, boing… as they say..