Delaying The Inevitable

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana wrote the above quote for his publication The Life Of Reason in 1905. Often repeated, often misquoted, but it still sits absolutely relevant in life today and can be linked to so much.

I’m completely certain that had anybody gone to George Santayana after he published that piece of writing and said, “they’ll use that quote in 119 years time to talk about West Bromwich Albion”, Santayana would have said “Who?”, dismissed it, and probably have felt disappointed that his work could be taken in such a way to discuss something as trivial as football.

But for those that care, football isn’t a trivial matter. Football is much more than that. It changes moods, it takes you over. Your football club becomes more than just a club, it becomes a thing that you feel for, that you love. So much so that even when the club are not playing, you’re constantly thinking about it. It is always on your mind.

And it is because of that love that when things are going wrong, you feel it. You get chastised by others for “over-reacting”. But, as I’ve said in earlier blog posts, there’s a relationship between you and your football club, and, like it or not, it’s a one way thing.

When the club has gates dedicated to a former player, a hero amongst many fans, but then decides against supporting a cause dedicated to the man’s memory in any way; you see there is no bond.

When the club don’t listen to the outpouring of anger over the idea of changing the traditional blue and white stripes and release a new white (with pinstripes) shirt; you’ll see there is no bond.

But, still, the foolish in love will continue to spend ridiculous amounts of money to maintain what they believe is a special bond. Realistically, that bond is now nothing more than the bond you share with any other business in the world. You are a customer. Nothing more.

On the top of the West Bromwich Albion tree we have Jeremy Peace. A man whose silence is only frequently interrupted for him to make statements that really please the fans…”We’re a mid-table Championship club.” Ā This Summer will undoubtedly be the biggest one he has had to face since buying the club. And it’s on this that I’ll return to the Santayana quote.

A huge part to this season was Steve Clarke being sacked. I don’t believe for one second that was the wrong decision, but what was wrong was how the club took so long to replace. What was wrong was how the club took as long as they did to act on the slump they were in. We now have Pepe Mel. Poor Pepe Mel, who has succeeded (somehow) in retaining Albion’s Premier League status, but is clear in that he doesn’t know if he’ll be at the club next year.

Whether it would have made any difference had Albion acted swiftly with hiring Mel (after all, he was interviewed first and turned down 3 weeks before being offered the job because he ludicrously wanted his own team!), and giving Mel a whole transfer window rather than a week, we’ll never know. But what we do know is that the delay didn’t benefit the club in any way. Peace needs to show he has learnt from the calamity that is this season and act swiftly with Mel, or face another season of struggle and uncertainty.

Mel has an incredible level of support from a huge number of Albion fans, which seems fairly odd when it is utterly feasible that the club may only avoid relegation on goal difference. Arguably, the popularity of Mel could be because he has at least tried to connect with the fans, and therefore been a figure of isolation; against the players, and against the board. It says it all really that it is somehow impossible to make a valid opinion on whether Mel is or isn’t good enough because the lack of support from the playing staff and those above have totally hindered any job he would have wanted to do.

And that is the reason I don’t think Mel will be at Albion next year. Popularity with the fans doesn’t buy you job security, and the talk of fans “campaigning” to help keep Mel in the job for next year is simply laughable. Jeremy Peace doesn’t care about you. He runs a business, and he’ll do as he pleases. But he must act quick.

And Peace must also show ambition. Whoever comes in will have to spend money. The club still lack the players they lacked in pre-season last year, and the others have got a year older. Several of the signings this year just weren’t good enough.

I don’t buy the argument that the club dropped their transfer policy in the last pre-season. Other than two players, the rest came in on free or on loans. The only difference was we panicked. We believed that the eighth place showing the year before meant we had a good enough team, but the deficiencies were there to see clearly from as early as November 2012. Peace and co didn’t act swiftly enough at the end of the season to tackle the issues and, as a result, the team suffered. Again, he must learn from this, and act quickly this time round.

The fear is clearly that if Peace forgets the mistakes made this year, and fails to act, he will condemn the club to another season of struggle; and this season will have been just a way to delay the inevitable: relegation.