Ian Hart: We're certainly on our way now!

Albion players celebrate a goal in pre-season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion players celebrate a goal in pre-season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

So the wait is over and the football season has finally arrived.

As I previously stated while I’m, even at 53, genuinely excited about Albion’s Premier League debut, for me it’s been as much about the journey as the destination.

The club has suffered setbacks and problems which when they’ve occurred elsewhere have resulted in clubs folding, sometimes restarting, but sadly in some cases disappearing forever. Throughout all of the Albion’s troubles, whether it was extreme optimism or good old fashioned blind faith, deep down I believed that the new chapter at this highest level would eventually happen.

We’ve previously come close a few times, but now the wait is over. The excitement and anticipation is almost as palatable as the football itself, constant transfer speculation, ticket and merchandise sales updates, it’s been a busy summer.

I am disappointed in some ways at the degree of negativity in certain quarters, specifically regarding Saturday’s game.

I was with someone at the weekend, who purports to support the club, who predicted City would hit the Albion for six! Saturday is about celebration, remembrance and enjoyment, when you’ve been to Rochdale and Oldham, driven to both Mansfield and Halifax only to have the games called off at the last minute, a league home match against Manchester City is almost in the realms of Fantasy Football.

Remembrance for sadly the people who put so much into the club, but won’t be there on Saturday, but above all and something I said to an American reporter last week when being interviewed for NBC, I’m just going to enjoy the whole experience.

Prediction wise, for the Albion this is a campaign which is in two parts. The 14 games home and away against the top seven clubs are matches that we almost discount, don’t get me wrong, don’t rule out an unexpected result either at the Amex or on the road in these matches, it’s the other 24 games that Chris Hughton’s side must target the 40 or so points that will guarantee survival.

Will the Albion survive? Definitely.

Unfortunately for fans of Huddersfield, Swansea and Stoke, it’s bad news from Harty, I don’t think they will survive. I also believe, that with a couple more additions to Hughton’s squad possibly even breaking the club’s transfer record again in the process, the Albion will finish above Burnley, Watford and Crystal Palace, so it’s 14th place. Remember where you read it first!

Up the other end, Everton are now staking a real claim to become part of domestic football’s elite. It’s probably too early to have them challenging at the very top, but don’t rule them out ending up the top team in their home city this season.

As for the title, it’s the other North West city that will contest the Premier League trophy, as I can’t see anyone getting near City or United when it comes to the top two.

The sack race? Unfortunately Mark Hughes at Stoke looks a good value bet to be the first manager to lose his job, but Rafa Benitez could still be the first top flight manager to ‘walk’ when things don’t go his way at Newcastle. Above all for Albion fans, it’s very much glass half full time. Embrace the experience and bearing in mind where we’ve come from enjoy every minute win, lose or draw.

Listen to Harty’s latest Podcast with People’s Pundit winner Kev Clarke on: Facebook: @thepeoplespundits; Twitter: @peoplespundits; I Tunes: thepeoplespundits. Email - thepeoplespundits@gmail.com

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