Behind Enemy Lines: West Bromwich Albion

MILLWALL want to avoid a fifth defeat in six Championship games when they head to The Hawthorns on Saturday.

After an encouraging performance against Leeds, the away woes continued against QPR in midweek with a 2-0 loss.

Neil Harris has hinted there could be changes to freshen things up, against a West Brom side that have been in great goal-scoring form.

The Baggies are the top scorers in the Championship with 20, but have conceded 12 goals, one more than the Lions.

Lucas Ball spoke to Baggies fan Paul Rees this week.

Why do you support the Baggies?

Family tradition. I was born in Hill Top, West Bromwich and generations of the family had even by then accustomed themselves to the Baggies' peculiar penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

What's been your favourite season following West Brom?

No contest: 1978-79, the season of Ron Atkinson, the Three Degrees, scintillating football, the dismantling of an all-star Valencia team in the UEFA Cup, the 5-3 win at Old Trafford, a glorious tilt at the league title and more besides.

Of course, this being the Albion, we ended the campaign trophy-less.

And the worst?

For sheer, unremitting grimness, last season would take some beating. Though the campaign Bobby Gould presided over in the old Division Three runs it very close.

How refreshing has it been to watch since Darren Moore took over?

Everything about having Darren Moore at the helm is refreshing. He's one of football's genuine good guys.

The fact that he's set his team up to win games, as opposed to not lose them, is the icing on the cake.

Tony Pulis' style seemed to work for a few years, but was it always inevitable it would turn sour?

Sorry, I cannot comment rationally about Pulis. Having suffered several seasons of watching Ablion teams struggle against his ugly Stoke team, I didn't want him at The Hawthorns in the first place.

The fact that the two-and-a-bit seasons of rotten football we were subjected to under him drove both of my sons away from supporting the Baggies places him in a category I would more normally reserve for the likes of Pol Pot.

The nadir, for the lads, and for me too, was a home game against Bournemouth when Pulis lined the team up in an apparent 9-0-1 formation and lost by the odd goal. As for things inevitably turning sour: if you only have one dimension, soon enough the opposition will work you out.

What are your expectations for this season?

Hope for the play-offs, dream of automatic, but accept the reality that after several seasons of mismanagement at all levels of the club, we are in the process of being re-built and hopefully from the ground up.

Looking a long way ahead to January, what additions would you want at The Hawthorns?

On the wish-list for January (and given a renewed counting-the-pennies ethos at board level, it is very much wishful thinking), a ball-playing centre-half and a creative midfield playmaker are the two missing cogs in Moore's current squad.

And given that each is pretty much essential, long-term, for the expansive style of football he wants to play, you would hope that might be fixed sooner rather than later.

Who will be Moore's key men on Saturday?

Albion's front-four – Dwight Gayle, Jay Rodriguez, Matt Phillips and most especially Harvey Barnes – look the most potent in the division and so far have more than compensated for the Keystone Cops-style defending that has gone on behind them.

Which Millwall players will West Brom be wary of?

Anyone that can head a ball towards goal in the box. So far this season, our statuesque three-man defence of Dawson, Hegazi and Bartley have shown a worrying aversion to dealing with such things.

What are your thoughts on Lions boss Neil Harris?

From the outside looking in, Neil Harris appears to me to be cut from similar cloth to our own Darren Moore. A true club man and a decent fella.

If you could sign one of Millwall's players, who would it be and why?

I couldn't claim to know the current squad well enough to pick one out. But what would do very nicely would be if we could somehow take old boy Teddy Sheringham in his strings-pulling prime.

What's your predicted starting XI and formation for West Brom?

Barring injury, Moore will surely go with the same team that stuck four past Bristol City in midweek.



Dawson – Hegazi – Bartley

Phillips – Livermore – Barry – Barnes – Gibbs

Gayle – Rodriguez

(With Barnes in more of a floating role.)

Will you be at the game on Saturday and what's your score prediction?

I won't be at the game on Saturday by dint of the fact I now live on the Isle of Skye – that's how far Pulis drove us off.

From long and bitter experience, predicting results for the Baggies, particularly positive ones, is an exercise fraught with peril. However, if our attacking quartet fire and we don't do anything too daft in defence, I'll go for a 3-1 home win – though without any real conviction.

Image: Millwall FC