Walking around the Hawthorns, you can see who the new star is in the Baggies shirt. After a fantastic season in the Championship where he scored 18 goals, Graeme Dorrans is the key man behind West Brom’s prolonged plans to stay in the Premier League.
Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation last season allowed the Scottish to flourish behind the lone striker, providing numerous assists in the process of becoming the clubs top scorer. Arriving in July 2008 for £100,000 – rising to £150,000 based on appearances – the Scottish star never really stood out under Tony Mowbray. This was mainly due to injury and the fact he was never a first team regular for the Baggies. Roberto Di Matteo saw the perfect role for the midfielder allowing his talents and vision to be the main factor behind the excellent season at The Hawthorns and drawn comparisons to the club legend Bryan Robson.
The West Brom manager recently spoke about the player’s importance in the team, when he signed a new long term contract.
However the Scottish midfielder faces a 50-50 chance of being fit for the season opener against Chelsea on Saturday. In the last pre-season game against Osasuna, the midfielder proved Di Matteo’s worst fear when he came off after 71 minutes with a groin injury. The strain is a reoccurrence over the same injury which happened earlier in the year, something which medical staff will have to treat with care. A weekend scan proved the doubts over his fitness ahead of the opener and his exclusion out of Scotland’s midweek friendly.
If he was to miss the opening curtain, pundits wonder where the goals will come from against Di Matteo’s former club. Ishmael Miller, Roman Bedner and Simon Cox are the strikers on the books but failed to hit a number of goals against Championships defenders, leaving extra pressure on the Scottish midfielder’s shoulders. With his return from likely to be dependent on the amount of rest he receives, Dorrans is likely to be wrapped up in cotton wool.
A number of replacements could be ready to replace him if Dorrans was to prove unfit. Steven Reid and Giles Barnes who have resurrected their career under Di Matteo, could be the stars to start in the centre of the midfield. Both players have had Premier League experience and would be relishing the opportunity against last season double winners. Scotland star James Morrison could also be certainty for the spot if he was pushed up from his defensive midfield role alongside Youssouf Mulumbu. An international teammate is looking to emulate Dorrans scoring habits, if a chance were to arise. Morrison told the clubs official website “Hopefully, I can off the season with a few more. To score five as a midfielder in the Premier League is a great achievement .” The ex-Middlesbrough man then went on to speak about this year’s chances. “We showed last season were a scoring team and with players getting into the box, which is a good thing, we are going to create chances. With pre season being a long six weeks, we are all now champing at the bit for the new season. Were in good shape and we are ready to go.”
In defence there are also new injury worries ahead of the opener as Gabriel Tamas, Pablo Ibanez and Marek Cech are being monitored closely as their fitness is a doubt. The Romanian defender is likely to be fit after club medical staff deemed it safe for him to join up with his international squad. These three players are key to Premier League survival, especially in the first few months when they face the supposed ‘big four’ in the first four away games, with tough fixtures at home to Tottenham and Fulham.