Diplomatic Immunity: West Brom

An occasional series of open discussions with opposition fans. They can say what they like about Chelsea and I promise not to be rude back to them.

Number 1:  Blagging With A Baggie.

When did you start supporting West Brom?

I went with my friend Tom and his Dad, soon before the advent of printing. No, it was 1966, before we won the World Cup. Lots of legs and noise and the smell of pies. That’s all I remember.

And why?

The legs and noise and smell of pies. To be honest I don’t really know why, apart from it was West Brom or the cricket. I like cricket now, but not then.

After some time I loved watching Jeff Astle, Tony Brown, Tony Kaye, Bob Hope and the others, but I was into West Brom by then. I think. I dunno, I was only little.

Do you like the West Brom strip?

Our kit hasn’t changed much at all. Our badge has changed a bit though, and I like the one we have now. If I had to choose a strip, apart from today’s strip, I’d go for the West Brom Strollers kit.

Who are the Strollers?

They gave birth to West Bromwich Albion as we know and love them.

What memory of the Baggies will you still remember when your memory has finally faded and you are old and senile?

Jeff Astle’s winner in the 68 Cup Final.  Laurie Cunningham. We got him from Leyton orient I think, great winger. And Cyrille Regis, the man mountain.

If you had to pick your favourite player of all time, who would it be?

Tony Brown. Bomber was one of my heroes – probably my first. If anyone scored in those days it seemed to be him. Him or Astle anyway. He was fundamental to us winning a succession of cups between 1967 and 70.

We got the FA Cup in 68 and from 1966-70 the League Cup was ours, we were in the final so often. And, of course he set up Jeff Astle’s goal which beat Leeds 2-1, that famous offside goal!

Should it have stood?

Yes of course it should have. For two reasons: a) the offside player wasn’t interfering with play (though that is arguable) and b) It got us two points (for a win). Oh yes, and Leeds lost out on the title by one solitary point that season (chuckles).

Back to the present day. What did you think of Roberto Di Matteo when he was your manager.

Excellent. We came out of the Championship with some stylish football, and though we were struggling in the Premier League you could see that we were making improvements. Maybe that improvement was too slow. But I don’t think he’d lost the dressing room or anything like that. My personal view is that the club panicked because results weren’t really going our way. They got jittery

I think he’s obviously got a tactical brain, I was very disappointed to see him go. But Roy came in and fair play he’s done a great job so far. I think Di Matteo will do well in his career. It must be a dream come true for him to go back to Chelsea.

How do you view your season going this time around?

So-so. We have the players to get 35-40 points this season. Roy’s tactical nous will get us another 10. So I think half way will be a good finish. Cant see us competing for a European place, but then no one saw that happening with Fulham did they when Roy Hodgson was in charge? Could happen. Not this season though.

What happened against Man U.

We did enough to get a draw, but against the top teams you cant just play for half an hour in the first half and twenty minutes in the second. That’s what we did. Maybe we gave them too much respect. Class side though, United.

So how are you going to fare at Stamford Bridge on Saturday?

I’m not going, more’s the pity. But I don’t like tea-time kick offs.

Your favourite Chelsea West Brom game?

Cant remember any. We haven’t done too well against your lot in the Premiership. I do remember back in the 70’s we beat you 3-0 once, late 70’s I think off the top of my head. But our paths haven’t crossed that much have they?

So, come Saturday, how do you think West Brom will do?

I hope its fine. The weather.

Given the fact we didn’t score against Stoke, are you hopeful of at least a point?

The trouble with an evening kick off is you never get time for shopping. Not that I’d do much shopping in London anyway, its too expensive.

So, the result on Saturday will be?

Not a bad journey to London by bus though.

Are you avoiding the question?

Yes. Next.

Okay. What is your prediction for Chelsea this season?

Before I saw the improvement in Torres and Kalou on Sunday, and even Mikel getting a great shot on target – just under the bar that was, great – I would have said third behind United and City. But if your new manager can get that sort of improvement in what? six weeks? two months, then maybe first or second. It’ll be tight though.

So what about Chelsea v West Brom on Saturday?

You’re not letting this one go are you? Yes, a big game for Chelsea. We must play without fear.

Okay, what do you think of our new manager, Andre Villas-Boas?

Very impressed. Until recently I thought he’d only managed Porto, but he’s got a fair few years experience hasn’t he. I like his focus on the team and his comments about players having to be social role models. We need more of that in football, not enough clubs take that side of it seriously. Though maybe some Chelsea players needed a public telling?

Did they?

Maybe. The club have had a disproportionate amount of flak, given that what some of their players did was more silly than malicious. Terry seems to have got his act together over the last year or so. Not before time, too, but fair play to the lad he appears to have buckled down and he’s gained a lot of respect for turning it round I think.

Cole too, the best left back in the country in my opinion and if I’m being fair – which I’m trying to be – I think he’s just been a media target and suffered as a result. I think they both have matured. And as England players, that’s great.

Talking of England, club v country?

Country has to come first. With the exception of these stupid start of season international friendlies. Badly timed in my opinion.

If there was one player from Chelsea you could have for free….

Drogba. No competition really, because while there are other good players – sorry, world class players – for this season and the next Drogba in our side would move us up from mid-table to fifth or sixth, and that’s where you want to be really. I honestly believe he would be like Tony Brown, a catalyst to greater things. You couldn’t have a word with your manager could you?

No. So, finally, a score prediction?

Oh come on, must you rub it in? Last season we lost 6-0 and I don’t think your boys got into top gear. Maybe if Bednar’s goal had stood [it was 1-0 Chelsea when his attempt was correctly ruled out for offside] things might have been different.

Anything better than that will be an improvement. We’ll keep you out for most of the game I think, but I cant see us coming back with anything really.

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