West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Bruce has said the opportunity to rebuild his side is a key reason as to why he decided to become the Baggies’ boss, speaking to the Express and Star.
The 61-year-old first arrived at The Hawthorns in the early stages of February with the West Midlands outfit still hopeful of a top-six finish at that point – but he struggled during the early stages of his tenure as he won just one point from a possible 15 in his opening five league games at the helm.
A mini-resurgence in March put them back in with a shout of reaching the top six – but inconsistency has continued to stifle their progress and this has proven to be the big reason behind their downfall.
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A late penalty against Coventry City at the weekend gave them hope of staying in the race mathematically – but Ben Wilson’s save from Karlan Grant’s poor spot-kick consigned Albion to another draw in a game they should have taken all three points from.
Regardless of which division they would have been in next season though, considerable surgery looked and still looks like nothing short of requirement with the Baggies struggling in front of goal and also showing defensive frailties at times over the past nine months.
The prospect of freshening his team up was one of the reasons behind why Bruce put pen to paper on a contract at Albion according to the 61-year-old himself, who has endured success in the second tier before, after making alterations to his squad.
He said: “I always have enjoyed it (building a squad) and that is probably why I am here.
“It’s what I’ve done for the past 20-years and I’m quietly confident that we can do it.
“We have got great support, it’s a great club with a fiercely loyal fan base. Fiercely loyal which is something to build on.
“And I’m determined to give them a team they can associate with and which they come and enjoy watching.”
Arguably, this build needed to happen last summer because they were safely one of the worst teams in the Premier League last term and with their relegation back to the second tier, that seemed like the natural time to change things.
However, this is easier said than done with many players remaining under contract for many years to come and if other clubs aren’t willing to take those who are surplus to requirements off their hands, then they either need to retain those players or terminate their contracts.
Choosing the latter option costs money though and with the need to adapt back to the second tier and the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules, Albion need to be wise in terms of where they invest their money.
They are a club that certainly has a lot of potential though with the likes of Taylor Gardner-Hickman, Tom Fellows, Caleb Taylor and Reyes Cleary rising through the ranks – and these are the types of players the West Midlands side can build their team around.
Gardner-Hickman has been particularly good this season, so Albion must invest but also ensure they aren’t blocking their academy players’ path to the first team. They have already lost several promising players in recent years.