Ahead of Southampton's Emirates FA Cup trip to West Brom on Saturday, we spoke to Birmingham Mail journalist Joseph Chapman to find out how the mood has changed at The Hawthorns since the Premier League meeting a fortnight ago...
What level of significance will be placed on this game from a West Brom point of view?
I’d hope to see a high level of significance. With the club appearing to be fighting a losing battle to remain in the Premier League, the FA Cup offers Albion something different to focus on.Their victory at Liverpool in the last round of the competition was comfortably their best performance in the last calendar year, and while those hopes remain that Albion can secure significant silverware for the first time since 1968, the appropriate level of attention should be paid.
What were the lessons learned from the recent Premier League meeting with Saints?
That Southampton are a better team than even Saints themselves have been letting on. I was impressed with the quality of football played. Mario Lemina particularly stood out in midfield. Their resilience to come from a goal down and not panic, with the magnitude of the day taken into account, was some going.
How has the mood changed at The Hawthorns since that game a fortnight ago?
It hasn’t really. If anything, I suppose, it’s worsened. Since that FA Cup win at Liverpool, Albion have lost three games in a row, conceded nine goals and witnessed Huddersfield, Newcastle and Swansea pick up vital wins that has plunged them further into the relegation mire. Daniel Sturridge, who Albion went to such lengths to bring to the club in the transfer window, hobbled off with a hamstring injury on Monday night. The owner, Guochuan Lai, has since sacked chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman. The current mess sadly epitomises Albion’s season as a whole.
Was the club right to hold the chairman and chief executive accountable for recent results?
Having already changed the manager this season, the famous “bounce” that a new boss tends to enjoy never arrived for Alan Pardew. He’s overseen just one league win in 13 matches since replacing Tony Pulis. Therefore, the lesser spotted Lai, who is clearly paying attention from his base in China, has looked further up the chain and decided to take action. Time will tell whether it was the correct timing, but there’s only so much of an effect you can have on the pitch, when dealing with off-field matters.
Has Alan Pardew tended to rotate his line-up in previous rounds of the FA Cup?
No, he’s gone strong with his selections. Having beaten Exeter and Liverpool, this will be the first match of the tournament at The Hawthorns this season and I’d imagine Pardew will opt for a similar policy. A win will breed confidence, whatever the competition, so I expect another strong side.
If Albion fans were offered winning the FA Cup or staying in the Premier League, which would they choose?
With survival appearing to be a bigger and bigger ask each week Albion don’t manage to find a win, it’s fair to say most fans would take the cup. Then again, if Albion were currently enjoying the comparable success of Burnley in the lower reaches of the top half, I still think many Baggies supporters would sacrifice Premier League football for silverware. There’s only so much enjoyment to be had from finishing anywhere between seventh and 20th each season, while a trophy goes a long way for a team like West Brom and Southampton. Ask any fan of Wigan, Birmingham, Swansea, Middlesbrough and Blackburn since the turn of the millennium and most fans of each club would likely agree.