With Wolves and West Brom again coming away empty-handed from very winnable weekend fixtures, the West Midlands duo find themselves, to different extents, firmly rooted in the bottom half of the table. Greg Simkins examines their respective losses of form, before looking ahead to the Black Country derby.
For Wolves, it has been a season of ‘almosts’. They almost held Manchester United, they almost claimed all three points at White Hart Lane and they almost took a point off Fulham and Aston Villa. The perennial nearly-men are, however, already embroiled in a very real relegation battle. Even the usually resolute Mick McCarthy has admitted to feeling the strain after a series of sub-standard results: “I
Wolves fans, a large proportion of whom are currently baying for McCarthy’s blood, should remember that their side were just one point better off at this stage last season. Last season’s team, however, went on to win three of the next four games; if Wolves are to avoid relegation then they will need to mount a similar run before they are cut adrift of 17th place.
West Bromwich Albion’s slide down the table has been met with something akin to stoic acceptance by many of the fans who have supported the club through their ‘yo-yoing’ of the last decade. One point from five games has seen the Baggies drop out of the top half of the table and slump to 16th, albeit it with a commendable points total of 16. Like Wolves, Albion are playing better than their recent form suggests. They were by far the better team in away fixtures against West Ham and Blackpool – the latter in spite of having just nine men. Nevertheless, West Brom fans know that attractive football alone will not keep them in the Premier League for longer than their customary single season; Tony Mowbray’s relegated side can be cited to substantiate this. A trip to Goodison Park looms for the Baggies, a game in which defeat could see them fall into the bottom three.
Given the two sides’ downturn in form, the Black Country derby on the 19th December will take on added significance. The old adversaries will be playing for far more than just pride; the proximity of their league positions will most likely render it an old-fashioned relegation six-pointer. Defeat would by no means be terminal but, for Wolves especially, surrendering three points to bitter relegation rivals would be an incredibly difficult pill to swallow.