In the tweny-five years I’ve followed West Brom, no manager has commanded as much goodwill as Darren Moore.
The desire for him to succeed is unparalleled. Rarely does a fanbase boast a boss who genuinely cares as much for their club as they do. That, along with his remarkable performance as caretaker manager, is why I wanted him to get the job permanently.
But the worrying warning signs in the wins Moore picked up at the start of this season were not heeded. Wins became draws, and now, draws have become defeats.
Albion got away with it at Birmingham City and then at Sheffield Wednesday – a combination of incompetent opposition and flashes of individual brilliance, scraped points that we didn’t deserve.
Those moments will only get you so far and can only bail out flawed management for so long. Wigan, Derby and Hull showed that.
Defeats have been coming; opponents have worked us out and let’s face it – it really doesn’t take much working out.
Darren Moore’s Albion insist on playing the ball out from a back three comprised of by far the worst passers on the pitch.
The least able footballers are given the task of supplying the most able – Hegazi, Dawson, Bartley and Adarabioyo are the playmakers in a formation that invites pressure onto the players least equipped to deal with it.
The opposition doesn’t even have to work that hard to close them down, because eventually one of them will just give them the ball. Jeopardy is always around the corner with Albion.
In front of the three worst passers is Chris Brunt, who has never been a central midfielder (not through want of trying) so why the management think he can play there now at the age of 33 is beyond me.
The game just passes Brunt by. I feel sorry for him. A great servant of the club is being singled-out for undeserved abuse, when he should be used as a experienced squad player – dispatched to deliver set-pieces and a fresh pair of eyes in a wide position when quality and composure is needed in the latter stages of tight games.
Instead, he’s played out of position, creating the toxic combination of no quality at the back and no legs in midfield.
And while the centre-backs pass the ball between themselves, both panicked and pedestrian, the best players – Barnes, Gayle, Phillips et al – are all too often forced to stand and watch them from the other end of the pitch.
Moore’s tactics do the opposition’s job for them – they isolate and nullify his biggest threats. The defenders are given the task of getting the ball to the attackers. The results? Well, they speak for themselves.
Fans can blame the board – for lack of recruitment, lack of investment and a lack, frankly, of visible leadership (when was our owner last at a game?)
And I broadly agree with those sentiments, but for once, this is not about them.
This is about the management picking the wrong formation and deploying the wrong tactics and not learning from their mistakes.
This squad should get promoted, even with the lack of summer spending. We have the best player in the league in Harvey Barnes and arguably the best goalscorer in Dwight Gayle. Add to that Phillips and Rodriguez, Gibbs and Dawson (played in their rightful positions) and we should go up.
Instead we’re slipping down the league and showing no signs of stopping.
I still believe the vast majority of fans, like me, want Darren Moore to succeed. He’s young and he’s learning and he has earned the right to reverse this dip in form – but the problem is staring him in the face and either through stubbornness or ignorance he’s not addressing it.
Both he and his assistant Graeme Jones need to quickly realise what our opponents did weeks ago and ditch this failed philosophy, before the club, sadly, ditches them.