Well what is there to say about the Albion at the start of 2013. I wrote earlier this month about the great start we have achieved so far and it has not disappointed either. There are so many positives out of this month, I’m about as excited as a 5 year-old at Christmas. The return of Vicente; our FA Cup run; undefeated in the league this year; planning permission for a state-of-the-art academy; lost to Arsenal in a terrific game and, of course, we’ve FINALLY signed a target man, Leonardo Ulloa.
Ulloa (pronounced U-Joah) has already made a terrific impact since joining. He gained international clearance a day before the Arsenal game and made himself known to the fans with a bullet diving header to make it 2-2 against Arsenal in the FA Cup. I tell you, we have never been so excited over a striker before (and thank god, we can finally shut up about Murray now)! It has been a long process so that he can get dual nationality as he is Argentinian (and it’ll be impossible to get a work permit for him) and qualified for a Spanish passport having spent many a year in Spain and made a great impact over there too, receiving interest in La Liga, but he’s ours now. Chin up Bilbao (and thanks for Spanish Dave as well).
Whilst we’re on the subject of a target man, hopefully now we can fully exploit our record signings, Craig Mackail-Smith, strengths now. Our £3 million striker has been at the club for 18 months and the fans have always said that the reason we cannot demonstrate his form like he had over at Peterborough, was the lack of a target man (hence the fuss over Murray). Macca has always done his best, we love his passion and determination. But to see him play a striking role that does not suit him frustrates us. Gus Poyet has said it how it is: “He’s here to play alongside Macca”. My god hope you keep to your words there Gus, I really hope you do. Macca has always been in the spotlight when he left the Posh and the Albion managed to beat Premier League interest so he can join us, now with a target man too, we can now watch on and see some great finishing between these two footballers and hope for a great partnership!
But does it stop there?! No, of course it does not. Off-the-pitch the club have proudly announced that the Buckingham Group (who built the AMEX) are going to build our brand new academy over in Lancing. This is an exciting occasion as it is a huge step for us in the footballing world. Previously the Albion have been training in various locations: schools, universities and even non-league football grounds. Although we have managed to develop some great talent on limited resources: Robinson, Cox, Hammond, El-Abd, Lynch, Dunk and Hall; the potential of developing, and attracting, better talent at the club with the new infrastructure is just too good.
Now this has led to an interesting concept, who is going to lead this? Who is going to run the Academy and share Poyet’s vision and style of play? Immediately fans have called on Wilkins, who has a proven track record at the club previously, following his shocking dismissal from Southampton. He has always loved the club, would immediately get along with Gus as they would share the same passion for the club and, more importantly, like to see football played the right way. And the suggestions do not even stop there. Club legend, Liam Brady, has announced he is leaving Arsenal in 2014. Hang on, the academy is due to be completed in 2014, Brady has experienced with a great youth set-up at Arsenal and has fond memories at the Albion. Coincidence? We’ll wait and see.
Now the most exciting prospect this month has to be the return of Vicente. Seeing all the tweets and statuses on social networking sites about him starting at Blackburn really showed how much we love the injury-prone Spaniard really is to the team. The privilege of having such an incredible talisman, who was once about to sign for Real Madrid for 36million euros. And he is just part of our `Spanish Invasion` in our squad. So far we have: Bruno, Calderon, Orlandi, Spanish Dave, Ulloa (well Argentinian but has a Spanish passport) all of which are Spanish and we all love. It’s great to see such a fantastic influence in the team. Vicente once was a player feared in the Champions League whilst Bruno would battle against Ronaldo and Messi only last season. Vicente is someone we have loved dearly, we hope he can maintain full fitness for a full season (if he stays, his contract is up at the end of this year) and really show our sheer class in the Championship and pursue our dream of the promise land, the Premier League.
It’s fair to say we have come a long long LONG way together. Once a small club that play there home games on an athletics track to a solid Championship club with one of the finest stadiums that we can happily boast to sell-out week-week-out. It’s a new era at the club and just looking back at this month alone and what has been achieved…it’s exciting so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.