Derby defeat can’t derail West Brom’s Hodgson renaissance

Roy Hodgson’s mantra of ‘team above individual’ was never likely to catch on at Liverpool. With a dressing room of egos and seasoned internationals, repetitive drills and a complete departure from conventional training methods were no more likely to be welcomed by the likes of Steven Gerrard than they were by Paul Ince, when Hodgson was at the Inter Milan helm. Hodgson’s methods have to be whole-heartedly embraced if they are to bear fruit and Croydon’s finest will always be welcomed and appreciated at middling sides looking to stabilise or exceed expectations.

In his first season at Blackburn they finished 6th and earned European qualification, having struggled at the bottom of the table the previous season. He steered Fulham clear of relegation against the odds, having taken over half way through the season, finishing 7th the following year, again qualifying for Europe. He joined Liverpool off the back of a season containing a narrow Europa League final defeat and a LMA Manager of the Year award. With the spectre of Kenny Dalglish looming large over his unsuccessful spell at Liverpool, Hodgson was not out of work for long. It took just over a month for West Brom to dispose of Roberto Di Matteo, in the midst of a run of 13 losses from their previous 18 games, in favour of Hodgson and improvement has been immediate and impressive.

The tide was stemmed by two spirited draws with Wolves and Stoke followed by an impressive 3-1 win at Birmingham. A shock 2-2 draw at Arsenal was followed by what must have been an incredibly satisfying victory over Liverpool. Another win at Sunderland followed before Chelsea inflicted the first defeat of Hodgson’s reign. West Brom responded by earning a point at White Hart Lane ahead of a dramatic derby win over Aston Villa.

Hodgson has inherited a talented, technically gifted squad that was drifting towards relegation and imbued them with a structure and ethos that has enabled them to flourish. Spearheaded by the signing of the season and April’s player of the month, Peter Odemwingie, West Brom boast a wealth of attacking midfield talent including the likes of Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Jerome Thomas and the injury-plagued Graham Dorrans. The defence has been the primary cause for concern this season. With Scott Carson in erratic form, and costly recent mistakes by Abdoulaye Meite, only Blackpool has conceded more than West Brom’s tally of 68 goals against. Hodgson has already identified this area of the squad for summer investment. After three more goals were shipped in Sunday’s derby defeat at Wolves, it’s now 34 games and counting since their last clean sheet.

Local bragging rights may have been lost with the 3-1 defeat to Wolves, but with games at home to Everton and away to Newcastle still to play there remains an outside chance of an 8th place finish if results go their way. Roy Hodgson has turned around West Brom using the tried and tested techniques that make him the go to man for struggling sides in need of discipline and experience. Baggies fans finally have reason to believe that the yo-yo years are well and truly behind them.

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