Date:Saturday June 24 2006
Pre-season is always an exciting time to be a football fan, transfer rumours, who is coming in, who is going out, it`s rumour after rumour but this season it could prove to be make or break for Albion.
Chairman Jeremy Peace and manager Bryan Robson drew the line after the clubs relegation to the Championship last season and they said that none of our top players are going anywhere, that is unless silly money is offered for their services.
The club have just turned down an offer for three of it`s top stars of over £10 million from one club, now that is a lot of money to a team entering the Championship and you could build a whole side to compete and get out of this division on that but the club are following Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan`s stance and putting up the not for sale sign. Albion are in the position that they do not have to sell and won`t unless they are offered the money that is acceptable to them.
Is it a just a matter of time until we say 'yes` to one of these offers? If so how will that impact the current squad?
Our current squad is small, it hampered us last season as there were not enough quality players in key positions, especially in the striker department, with clubs showing interest in at least four of our first-team regulars we could be in trouble.
Below I look ahead to the 2006/07 season and look at the potential impact that losing our key players may have.
In goal we have a first-class keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak was fantastic for us last season and will be a key player next season, I hope that his intention to stay is genuine and that Manchester United saw his blooper against Columbia putting them off making a bid. Russell Hoult is the only back-up we have in this department at the moment and the club are looking to offload him as soon as a suitable offer comes in. We need to add at least one experienced back-up goalkeeper for the season ahead.
In defence we could be in trouble, both centre-back Curtis Davies and full-back Paul Robinson have been linked with moves away from The Hawthorns with Robbo seeking talks on his future with Bryan Robson. Last season these players formed two of our back four and if we lose both we could be left short. Neil Clement is expected to stay a long with Martin Albrechtsen and the injured Thomas Gaardsoe. Steve Watson is also set to remain although this looks to be confirmed closer to the start of the season. If we lose Robbo and Davies we could be facing major shortages at the back. With the news that David Weir turning down a move Albion will be struggling. I would expect to see rookie full-back Jared Hodgkiss play a major role this season, we may also see fellow rookie centre-half Jeff Forsyth given an opportunity after impressing for the reserves last season.
Robinson - Watford
Curtis Davies - Spurs, Arsenal, Wigan, Newcastle, Man City
Albion are blessed with midfield talent, last seasons midfield should remain intact with the only player linked to a move away so far being Zoltan Gera. Albion should be ok for midfield cover next season, if we lose Gera it will be hard to replace him but we do have players who filled in and played well in his position last season. Jason Koumas looks set to remain at Cardiff with a £2 million move close to completion. Ideally there would be one addition to the midfield, a leader, someone to fill the void left by Derek McInnes, we have not had a leader in the centre of the park since his departure. Richard Chaplow needs to play this season, he shone for Burnley and Southampton in this division now it is time for us to see what he is capable of. Welsh Under-21 midfielder Rob Davies may also get an opportunity this season.
Gera - Wigan, Spurs, Villa
Koumas - Cardiff
The one department that seriously let us down last season with our lack of goals. Only four strikers remain and with the futures of Nwankwo Kanu and Kevin Campbell still to be resolved and Nathan Ellington linked with a move back to Wigan, Albion could be left with only rookies Stuart Nicholson and Rob Elvins being the only recognised strikers in the Baggies squad. Albion need to settle the futures of Kanu and Campbell and need to bring at least two goal scorers to the club, if we lose Ellington make that three. Scoring goals wins you games and Albion need to bring some fire power into the club.
Kanu - Free
Campbell - Free
Ellington - Wigan
It doesn`t make pleasant reading if we lose the players with futures yet to be resolved or players linked with moves away. Of course this is without players being added to the squad, but as we all know when Albion bring in players it`s never very fast. Blues have managed to bring in 3 quality players with Cameron Jerome, Stephen Kelly and Neil Danns with Albion yet to confirm any deals.
Albion have been in talks with John Hartson for the past two months but the move is apparently being held up by Celtic who are negotiating a pay-off with their former striker. David Weir has decided to sign on for another season at Everton meaning Albion will have to turn to other targets.
Another striker Albion have been linked with is MK Dons striker Izale McLeod, the striker is also a target for Black Country rivals Wolves. Former Baggies striker Jason Roberts has also been linked with a move to The Hawthorns but Blackburn look set to sign the player as a replacement for Liverpool bound Craig Bellamy.
Albion have been linked with moves for defenders Danny Shittu at QPR, Bruno N`Gotty who was released by Bolton and former Liverpool and Wigan centre-back Stephane Henchoz.
We need to start the ball rolling with a signing or two to help settle the nerves, we also need to confirm the futures of our players and let the fans know what is going on. Why are we so slow in making moves in the transfer market, I thought the whole point in Peace going on holiday when he did was so that he could make an early start with all of this. The only player we have got close to signing is Hartson and this has proved to be a long drawn out affair.
Of course the fans don`t know everything that happens in the club but it is frustrating hearing all these rumours concerning our players leaving the club and not hearing any about players coming into the club.
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