Premier League 2015-16 season preview: West Bromwich Albion

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Last promoted to the Premier League in 2010, West Brom has been the definition of hard-nosed, survival Premier League soccer. It’s never usually not pretty, but so far it’s gotten the job done…barely.

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Coming off a season where they unceremoniously finished 13th, revived under Tony Pulis, a new season of gut and grind awaits, and it could be a tumultuous one. The West Brom squad is continuously in flux, but this season there’s a healthy amount of continuity.

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A defensively sound squad added Rickie Lambert to bring some finishing ability to a group that lacked creativity, and James Chester from Hull City adds depth and experience to an already packed back line.

Best Possible XI:

—Foster—

–Lescott–Olsson–Chester–Dawson–

–Brunt–Morrison–Yacob—Fletcher–McManaman–

—Berahino—

 

Transfers In: James Chester ($12.4 million, Hull City), Rickie Lambert ($4.6 million, Liverpool), James McLean ($2.3 million, Wigan Athletic).

Transfers Out: Youssuf Mulumbu (Released, Norwich City), Chris Baird (Released, Derby County) 

Star Player: Saido Berahino

With 20 goals across all competitions last season, West Brom managed to hold onto its 21-year-old star. Despite his youth, Berahino is vitally important to the club as its only recognizable star player in a squad of under-the-radar workhorses. With Rickie Lambert now on the team, it could allow Berahino to work in a more creative role, but they’ll need his flair up front once again.

The club scored 38 Premier League goals last season – fifth least in the English top flight – and nearly half those came from Berahino. He’ll need help next year if he wants to repeat those numbers.

Last Season: 13th in the Premier League – Just four wins before the Christmas break meant Alan Irvine got the axe, and the club brought in Tony Pulis to replace him. The club finished the season strong, including a 3-0 win over Chelsea in the second-to-last week. They managed a 13th-placed result, typical of a West Brom side used to mediocrity.

Coach’s Corner: Tony Pulis is well-known along the Premier League stage. Known for his defensive propensity and a love for the long-ball, you know what you’re going to get from Pulis. Love him or hate him, he’s likely one of the strengths of this squad. He is known for a hard-nosed style, which fits West Brom perfectly.

PST Predicts: If Saido Berahino can repeat his goalscoring season, and he can provide for Lambert, West Brom will stay away from the drop. However, Lambert must prove he’s still useful at 33 years old, and the midfield needs some kind of creative spark. It’s easy to see this squad in the bottom three at the end of May.

Southgate, England players sound off on racist abuse

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England took care of business in Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria, but the Three Lions had to endure some horrendous racist abuse from the crowd during the game.

The match was paused on two occasions I’m the first half by the match officials after racist chanting could be heard from a section of supporters, and a large group of Bulgarian fans were ejected towards the end of the half. However, racist abuse continued during the match from small pockets of fans in the stadium.

[READ: England v. Bulgaria delayed after racist abuse from stands]

“I have to say that the officials were on to everything very quickly,” England manager Gareth Southgate told ITV after the match. “We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players, all the way through the first half in particular, and then again at halftime.

”We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

Raheem Sterling, who scored a brace in the win, also sounded off on social media, as did former England and Arsenal star Ian Wright.

Ultimately, UEFA and the match officials followed the protocol, but the sad part about this is that England and the officials had a plan for racist abuse, and it was predictable that it would happen.

In a statement after the game, the FA confirmed they would be asking UEFA to investigate what happened. However, any punishment is too little, too late for the players who endured the abuse.

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

This story will be updated.

 

Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.

Tottenham re-signs goalkeeper Vorm

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With Hugo Lloris set to miss at least another two months of action with a broken elbow, Tottenham has turned to a familiar face to provide some cover between the pipes.

Tottenham announced Monday it had re-signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm to a contract through the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Vorm spent five seasons with Tottenham after signing from Swansea City in 2014. However, after playing second-fiddle to Lloris and later serving as the third backup behind current Tottenham No. 2, Paulo Gazzaniga for the past couple of seasons, Vorm was released at the end of last season.

Its certainly a boost for Tottenham that a player with a long history at the club and plenty of experience was available to help in this situation. Similar to Liverpool picking up Adrian after Alisson Becker’s injury, Tottenham know what it’s getting in Vorm and may play him a few times if Gazzaniga needs a night off in the next few months.

According to Vorm, he had been home in his native Netherlands and was watching the game when he saw Lloris get injured.

“Obviously I saw straight away that he had a bad injury and at the time I thought about how bad it was, Vorm told Tottenham’s website. “After the game I spoke with Jan (Vertonghen), he told me what was going on and I spoke also with Toni (Jimenez, our goalkeeping coach) and, yes, during the week I got the phone call to ask if I was open to come back and help out. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the players and also with Toni. We were speaking quite regularly and on Thursday he called me, we had the conversation and from there on, it went very quickly.”

In his five seasons with Tottenham, Vorm made a total of 47 appearances in all competitions. He saw plenty of time in the League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Champions League during his stay at White Hart Lane.