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Albion unlikely to better last season

West Brom FanZoner Joe Chapman accepts it will be hard for the Baggies to emulate last season's achievements and would take a mid-table finish.

Last Updated: 29/07/13 at 17:48 Post Comment

George Thorne: Could play a big part for West Brom this season

George Thorne: Could play a big part for West Brom this season

How has your pre-season gone?

By and large, it's been very pleasing. The players seemed to have benefited from the recent trip to Austria and Hungary, where we were edged out 2-1 by Hannover 96, but were victorious over the Puskas Academy 3-0. Wins over Tamworth and Hereford also helped to get the pre-season up and running early on.

Another comfortable win over Derby saw Markus Rosenberg net his third goal of pre-season, while matches against Atromitos, Genoa, Cork and Bologna await. The squad remains fully fit, while Zoltan Gera and George Thorne are making steady progress following lengthy absences.

Are you happy with how things have shaped up in terms of transfers - both in and out?

Let's start with the exit door - a revolving one of some sort at the Hawthorns this season.

Firstly, the inevitable departure of loan star Romelu Lukaku, whose 17 goals last season have done enough to suggest to new boss Jose Mourinho that he's ready to lead the line at Chelsea. I, like most fans of the club, were disappointed not to see the Belgian return for another spell.

Relatively long-serving pair Jerome Thomas and Marc-Antoine Fortune were released, joining Crystal Palace and Wigan respectively. Scott Allan has made the short move to Birmingham on a season-long loan, while Romaine Sawyers has joined Walsall.

While the aforementioned Rosenberg has enjoyed a successful pre-season, it is believed the club are prepared to listen to any offers following a goalless season last campaign. Peter Odemwingie also seems likely to be heading out of the club, when Albion's price tag is met.

As for ins, we've seen the capture of the much decorated Nicolas Anelka, 34, who arrived on a free, while Goran Popov has rejoined the Baggies on loan. Steve Clarke also hopes to complete a number of signings in the coming weeks, with Salomon Kalou, Scott Sinclair, Matej Vydra and Craig Gardner all believed to be heading for The Hawthorns. They would provide support in attack, much needed width and cover in midfield.

Is your current manager the right man for the job?

It's Steve Clarke's second season as head of a club, after the club took a gamble in appointing him last year - a move that ultimately paid off.

He has one more year on his contract, and it remains to be seen whether he'll sign another one, but you can't fault his efforts last term.

Ben Foster his only monetary acquisition, the Scot, who already has an impressive CV, guided Albion to eighth: their highest ever Premier League finish. I for one hope to see him rewarded with a new (and improved!) deal.

Dare to dream - if everything clicked into place what's the best you could hope for?

Well, it would have to be Europe. Finishing eighth last season was an excellent achievement, but the seven clubs above Albion were miles ahead in terms of consistency. If everything was right, the signings that are to made prove to be successful and we hold onto what we've got, then we have a slim chance.

For now, though, we must be content with where we are as a club right now, and pleased with the progress that has been made in the last 12 years.

Back to reality - what are your realistic expectations for the new campaign?

It will be difficult to emulate a season such as last season's, especially with the likes of West Ham, Swansea, Norwich and Southampton all strengthening. Right now, anything between eighth and 12th is somewhere that we should expect to finish. Anything below this would be disappointing after the rise of the last three years.

Who will visiting scouts be keeping an eye on this season?

It depends on how much game time he gets, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of George Thorne this season. The young midfielder was injured at Everton last season, unfortunately, as he was getting some regular game time.

He has a lot of potential, as does Saido Berahino, whose cameo at Derby on Saturday had Albion fans off their seats. The regular midfielders in Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob will be sought after with some dominating performances last campaign.

If you had to pick one player who'd be fit for every minute of every game, who would it be?

Youssouf Mulumbu. This guy has had four brilliant seasons in the heart of the Baggies midfield and capped off another impressive term with a goal against Manchester United on the last day.

He is very talented at dispossessing opposition, but can also pass when on the ball - a hugely important figure in the squad, and the recent news that he'd signed a new contract was music to fans' ears.

On the flip side (without being cruel!), who is the player with most to prove?

I guess this must be Rosenberg! Not used too often due to Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku, the Swede struggled to maintain any rhythm last season. He's managed three goals in pre-season, however, which will provide hope to fans that he can still come good. Back the Berg!

If you could sign any one player from any other side in the same division who would you plump for?

It would have to be Gareth Bale. The guy is unstoppable, and it would be a great shame and loss to English football if he left Tottenham for Madrid this summer.

Capable of winning matches on his own, he fully deserved his player of the season award last year. In years gone by, Paul Scholes or Thierry Henry would have been my answer!

If you only win one game all season who would you take three points from?

As an Albion fan, now is the time you're expected to say 'Villa'; however, we'll beat them anyway!

One team that I'm desperate to see us take three points off visits the Hawthorns on the final game of the season - ultimate bogey side Stoke.

We've not had any luck against the Potters on our own ground in recent years, as they've won on five of their last six trips to B71.

To score at Eastlands would be a success, something we've failed to do in our last three trips there, while beating Manchester United (something we haven't managed in the Premier League) would also be high on my list of priorities!

You can follow Joe on Twitter at @jcwba16 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too for links to all the latest blogs.

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