Chat with a Baggie: Match & Relegation Prediction from Opponents

WAW caught up with Mark Thomas, who writes for and operates the Albion Till We Die blog, to talk about Pulis, Sessegnon, and Saturday's clash at the Stadium of Light.

WAW: You're on 39 points and there's surely no chance of you going down. Job done, or were you hoping for more out of this season?

MT: I think achieving safety was always the number one priority for us this season, especially given the huge amounts of money that will be pumped into the Premier League next season. The big disappointment this campaign is again the lack of success in cup competitions - the FA Cup exit against Reading in the 5th round was particularly galling. 

This will be Pulis' first full season in charge. Is he the right man for Albion? What do fans think about his style of play?

If ensuring Premier League safety is the only criteria you look for in a manager then Pulis most definitely is the right man for the job. However, at times this season the football has been absolutely dire, really defensive stuff, and a good number of fans have been vocal in their disapproval of what we have had to witness. The majority of displays this season are even more frustrating when you consider that when we do play a more attacking style of football and go at teams we actually look a decent side

Looking back over your time following Albion, what have been your highlights and lowest moments?

I watched my first Albion game back in 1981 so just missed out on our great side of the late 1970s, therefore our first promotion to the Premier League back in 2002 is probably the highlight of my time supporting the club. At times during the late 1980s and 1990s Albion fans were starting to believe they would never again witness top-flight football so to finally achieve promotion to the Premier League, and at the expense of our Black Country rivals Wolves, really was something to savour.

The low point of supporting the club was our relegation to the old Third Division back in 1991. It really was an awful time to be an Albion fan.

Do you have any memories of past games against Sunderland, or visits to Roker or the Stadium of Light?

The game that stands out for myself, and most other Baggies' fans has to be the 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light back in April 2004 when Jason Koumas hit a late winner to virtually guarantee our return to the Premier League.

Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon swapped Wearside for the Black Country. Did you get a bargain from us?

I wouldn't say Sessegnon was a bargain considering he cost around £6 million but I think he will be looked back as a good signing for us. Yes he has games when his contribution is negligible but when he does 'turn it on' he is a class act. Craig Gardner on the other hand has produced little since he moved back to the Midlands. His commitment can't be questioned, and he has scored a couple of screamers for us but it's fair to say he's not a fan favourite.

What about Sunderland concerns you most about the upcoming game?

The biggest fear for me is that Sunderland will have far more desire to earn the three points than us given their league position. Our last game against relegation-threatened Norwich a good example of one team possibly wanting and needing the three points more than the other.

Who on the Albion team poses a real threat to Sunderland?

Saido Berahino is the obvious threat now he has returned to the side and looking more like the player we saw during the 2014/15 season. He has always reminded me of Jermain Defoe who of course Sunderland fans know all about. Our record signing Salomon Rondon has also improved recently following a poor first six months with the club. The jury's certainly still out on him but he will cause problems for the Black Cats' defence.

How do you think WBA will approach the game tactically?

Probably the same as every other away game this season - sitting back and letting the defence do most of the work whilst we try and grab a goal from a counter-attack or more likely a set-piece. Our away 'performances' really have been forgettable this season on the whole.

Be honest, who do you think is going down?

I'd be surprised if it's anyone else other than three of the current bottom four.

Even though us Baggies' fans don't want to tempt fate by saying Villa are down before it's actually confirmed surely they will be playing Championship football next season. Shame.

As for the other two spots I still feel Norwich will be joining Villa. Despite the fact they beat us a couple of weeks back they really did look a poor side and you get the feeling either Allardyce or Benitez will pull off something special.

It really is impossible to predict which of Newcastle or Sunderland will go. Allardyce has the experience of battling the drop and you know his teams will battle to the death whilst Benitez is a fantastic manager and given time would surely turn United around but whether he has enough time this season remains to be seen.

And finally, can we have a prediction for Saturday?

I think it's probably safe to say it won't be a classic and I can't see there being many goals. Given Sunderland's need for points I really can't see an away win but a point for the Baggies is more than achievable. I'll go for 1-1.
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