‘Boing Boing Baggies’ is a popular terrace chant at the Hawthorns, epitomised by the club’s ability to bounce back from relegation. Since they first won promotion in 2002, West Brom have been relegated from the Premier League three times.
Twice they bounced straight back, losing in the playoffs on the third occasion before securing a return the following season. It’s a record that will give the West Brom fans hope as they suffered demotion once again this season.
They had only ever previously survived one season in the top flight during those first three relegations though. Keeping the same team largely together and picking up where they’d left off in the Championship with each return.
The current run in the top flight has been much more successful, with West Brom spending the last eight years in the Premier League. It’s been the best period of history for the club since the mid-1980s; but with such a large upswing, it could be an equally long downswing for England’s proudest ‘yo-yo’ club.
Before their promotion in 2002, West Brom hadn’t been in the top flight for 16 years, so they’d be no stranger to England’s second tier. West Brom’s quick relegations and promotions all came in the space of nine years, with the club maintaining a lot of consistency in the squad during that time.
Having now spent nearly the same amount of time in the top flight, the remnants of their last promotion squad are all but gone. James Morrison and Chris Brunt are the only survivors from that side and neither has had a significant impact for the club this season.
They also have a very old squad. Of the 21 regular starters at West Brom this season they had an average age of 29.9. In fact, the only player under the age of 27 to play regularly for the Baggies this season was 21-year-old Oliver Burke – and even he only made 12 league appearances.
The pick of their squad is likely to pounced upon by the Premier League vultures with players like captain Jonny Evans already linked with a move away. West Brom will be left with an ageing squad that doesn’t have much Championship experience and may not be up for another fight for promotion next season.
Statistically clubs either bounce back in their first two years or are consigned to a long stay in England’s lower tiers. West Brom need to inject youth, pace and energy into their squad if they are to have any chance of promotion next season.
Ironically the steady, experienced ethos that has led West Brom to so much Premier League success could be the thing that inhibits the club from bouncing back, like they have so many times before.