As we continue our look ahead to the new Championship season, West Bromwich Albion are next up in our ‘In Focus’ series.
The Baggies are certainly no strangers to the Premier League, having previously spent 12 seasons in the top flight since its founding in 1992.
But the Midlands side just didn’t quite acclimatise to the top level quickly enough following their promotion, with just one victory in their opening 17 matches giving them a mountain to climb for the second half of the season.
Slaven Bilic, the man who took them up from the Championship in 2019/20, lost his job in December and was replaced by former PNE defender Sam Allardyce, who has a knack of swerving teams away from relegation.
It was too much of a big ask, though, and West Brom went down in 19th position, but they did enjoy themselves on occasion, with a 5-2 victory at Stamford Bridge and an away win over rivals Wolves just a couple of positive takeaways.
There’s very little debate to be had about who West Brom’s best performer was throughout the last campaign, with Preston-born goalkeeper Sam Johnstone enjoying a brilliant year between the sticks.
Despite being in a team which conceded a division-high 76 goals, Johnstone put in some outstanding performances throughout the season, making countless remarkable saves, and it was no surprise to see him rewarded with a place in the England squad for the European Championships.
North End fans are well familiar with the shot-stopper; he played 29 times for the Lilywhites over two separate loan spells, one of which came in the 2014/15 Play-Off winning campaign.
At this moment in time, Johnstone remains a West Brom player, but he is reportedly being looked at by a number of Premier League clubs, so it is unclear whether he will stay at the Hawthorns next season.
An empty dugout
At the time of writing, the Baggies are currently without a head coach following the departure of Sam Allardyce at the end of the Premier League season.
On 14th June, the club’s Chief Executive Xu Ke updated supporters on their search for a new boss, saying they have not yet formally offered the job to anybody, but they have faced setbacks.
While unconfirmed by the club, it has been claimed that they were in conversation with former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and also ex-Huddersfield boss David Wagner, but neither move worked out.
The latest links are with Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael, who did a remarkable job with the Tykes last season to take them from the threat of relegation to a Play-Off semi-final.
This isn’t a meeting which PNE supporters will have happy memories of in recent meetings, given that you have to go back to 2008 for the last North End victory.
West Brom have come out on top in the last four fixtures between the two sides, with the 4-1 defeat on Gentry Day in 2019 a particularly sore memory.
PNE’s aforementioned last win over the Baggies in 2008 was a very eventful game, as North End held on to their 2-1 lead despite late red cards for both Youl Mawene and Chris Brown.
Just Peterborough United and Fulham are left to be put under the microscope on PNE.Com before the upcoming season's fixtures are released on Thursday.