The State of the Game: West Brom and the EPPP

In part four of our State of the Game Series, Joshua Faulkner looks at how West Brom have been the victims of the Elite Player Performance Programme…

The future: ‘a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing, a time that is regarded as still to come’. In football the future ostensibly relies on youth prospects: who will be the next Maradona, Pele or George Best? As such, youth development becomes of particular interest for many football fans. The initial meteoric rise of Saido Berainho from promising youth prospect to West Bromwich Albion’s survival saviour fuelled an interest in the club’s youth development and often praised academy. However, it has also revealed the rather contradictory nature of youth development in English football due to the Elite Player Performance Programme, an issue that can voiced in a rather Marxist tone reflecting on corporate capitalism: “the rich simply get richer”.

So what is the EPPP? The Elite Player Performance Programme was a Premier League initiative introduced in 2011 in response to the perceived lack of top player being developed in England. It harboured similar ideological views shared by the DFB for a system of quality assurance, implemented to ensure an increase in elite home-grown talent. The EPPP focussed strongly on education, coaching and facilities. The above was executed through the adoption of a category structure from Category 1 to 4 with Category 1 status being considered the most elite and thus eligible for more funding from both the Premier League and FA. Continue reading

Defence has been Albion’s downfall, not attack


Nathan Carr argues that despite the loss of West Brom’s attacking riches, it’s the defence that led them to a 17th place finish in the 2013-14 season…

Many have pointed to the obvious fact that the goals of Romelu Lukaku, Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long have not been replaced at West Brom, and this sudden decline in firepower was a significant factor in the team’s dismal 13-14 season. While this is indisputable, it would be churlish to focus purely on the goal drought and not the deeper areas of the field – where West Brom have arguably failed even more miserably.

The season just gone produced some of the worst defending I’ve ever seen from an Albion side. No communication, no solidity and certainly no familiarity as injuries to key defenders meant that the defence had to be tinkered with more times than the manager would have preferred. Continue reading

Knee-Jerkism prevails in Premier League sacking season


As the Premier League enters annual sacking season. Jacob Mignano rails against the departures of Steve Clarke and Andre Villas-Boas…

Another weekend of Premier League football has come and gone. And another two managers have found themselves casualties of English football’s brutal win-now-and-at-all-costs nature.

I have never been a fan of knee-jerk firings. Tottenham’s decision to part ways with one of the world’s brightest young managers, following closely behind Steve Clarke’s sacking, reek of the term.

I can’t think of a manager in the past two or three years that has been quite as unlucky as Andre Villas-Boas. He could have been the right man at Chelsea, had he been given the time. As it turned out he was the wrong appointment, as Roman Abramovich searched for a quick-fix for his multi-billion-pound vanity-project.

At Tottenham it seemed Villas-Boas had found a much better fit, but despite having his side one-point better off than they were at the same stage last season – and in the midst of a far more competitive, and unpredictable, league season – he has paid for two humiliating defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool. Continue reading

West Brom: The erratic excellence of Somen Tchoyi – a complete one-off


Nathan Carr chronicles Somen Tchoyi’s time at West Bromwich Albion…

It’s the summer of 2010 and West Brom are embarking on a brand new season in the Premier League. Having won promotion from the second tier, Roberto Di Matteo is in charge and the transfer window is in the full swing. Albion had been linked with several names across Europe, but one that kept on popping up was Somen Tchoyi. An unknown quantity, playing his football in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg, it was widely reported that Di Matteo was very keen on bringing the playmaker to England.

Following weeks of negotiation, lengthy preparation work and the bureaucracy of the UK work permit system, the club finally sealed the deal. Tchoyi arrived on a two-year deal for an undisclosed fee. At the time no one – and I mean no one – knew who the heck this bloke was.

As a surge in clicks from the West Midlands descended upon Tchoyi’s Wikipedia page it soon became clear that the 27-year-old, 6 ft 3 Cameroonian had no previous experience in British football.  A gamble? Just a bit, but one that Di Matteo had done his homework on. Time would tell whether his decision would pay dividends for the Baggies – then the quintessential year on, year off Premier League to Championship yo-yo team.

It didn’t take long for the new man to grab his first goal, making an instant impact after coming on against Manchester United in a historic 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in October 2010. Having reacted quickest to a calamitous piece of goalkeeping by Edwin Van der Saar, Tchoyi tapped his finish home. This was his proper introduction to the supporters: having been at the game myself, I was immediately fascinated by him. Continue reading

Premier League 2012-13: A Season of Sorrow, Part 1 – Shades of Grey


Finally the Premier League has put us out of our misery and decided to end the season. There’s been little excitement and little to remember, James Dutton wonders what the hell happened, and whether anyone can be happy about this…

The 2012-13 Premier League season has undoubtedly been a damp squib.

The exceptional events of a year ago seem to have hoarded all the drama and intrigue the Premier League can provide.

For the first time since 2006 there was nothing meaningful to decide at either end of the table – save another “epic” battle between Tottenham and Arsenal for fourth, with the wretched Reading and QPR the worst of a particularly sorry bunch of bottom-half sides this year.

It’s been a season defined by regression; the first time since 1996 there has been no English team in the quarter finals of the Champions League, an artificially dramatic “Fight for Fourth” and a title race that was, for all intents and purposes, sewn up before Christmas.

Misery reigns from top to bottom.

Are there any teams in the Premier League that can argue to have had a good season, be content with what they have achieved, or how far they have progressed, since August? Continue reading

Europa League’s English trio: the West Broms of Europe?


Simon Smith looks at the changing English perceptions of the Europa League…

This week the Europa League reaches the crunch stage, the quarter finals.  All the teams that get through this will fancy their chances of winning the tournament and there are no sloppy teams let in the running.  So why the three English clubs?  Traditionally this stage of the competition has eliminated them by now, so are we looking at a newfound interest in the competition by Premier League clubs or are there other reasons for the current success?  Take a look at the current teams involved, compare them to recent seasons and the mystery becomes a little clearer…

Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Newcastle are all good teams, but none of them are great teams.  There have in the last few seasons been two different classes of English club in Europe’s junior cup and for different reasons neither have had the ability to make significant progress in the tournament: clubs with desire but who lack the quality, and clubs with the quality who lack interest. Continue reading