Harty on the Albion’s FA Cup run and Liam Bridcutt
DESPITE the cold wind and the rain, the Albion returned from the Potteries with their FA Cup mission accomplished.
Despite seven changes from their previous league victory, against Birmingham, the 3-1 win at Port Vale was comfortable with Sunday’s fifth round draw then throwing up an intriguing prospect.
With the top four clubs in the country, sorry Manchester United fans, all being drawn against each other, there is a real prospect of another, dare I say it, unfashionable team emulating Wigan Athletic and getting to the final this season.
So, in some ways, I cannot really understand the howls of derision from certain quarters when the Albion ended up with a home draw against Hull City in the next round.
Against a team well and truly in a relegation fight from the Premier League and in the throes of an internal civil war, which sees its foreign owner wanting to change the name of the club, this game is clearly winnable.
But, with all due respect to the players brought in at Vale Park, Oscar Garcia really has to grasp the nettle and line-up against the Tigers (or whatever they will be called by then) a fortnight on Saturday with the strongest Albion team available on the day.
It’s not rocket science, a win puts Albion in the quarter-finals and another home draw puts us a possible 90 minutes away from a Wembley semi-final date.
Depending on the transfer business in the next 48 hours, and the league results that follow, by the time a possible sixth-round tie arrives, a lucrative cup run could effectively be all that is left for the Albion’s season.
Year three of the Amex was always going to be pivotal. A lot of corporate season tickets are up for renewal, along with all of the boxes, a semi-final and possibly an FA Cup final appearance might tip the scales and make ticket holders dip their toes back in the water.
Regardless of the prospect of having to go to Wembley twice if the semi-final result is positive, the Albion would take in excess of 30,000 to a semi and sell every ticket possible for any final.
Regardless of the result, although defeat against one of the top four would still mean Europa League qualification, it would certainly present a feel-good factor when selling Amex tickets for next season.
That doesn’t mean I’ve totally ruled out a play-off challenge, far from it but, to re-iterate, the next 48 hours is key.
For a start, as much as I admire him as a footballer and thank him for what he’s done for the Albion, the sooner we see the back of Liam Bridcutt, the better.
What’s that saying about one bad apple?
If, for some reason, his “dream move” doesn’t materialise, his continued presence at the club could only be divisive.
The simple answer is to get rid and get people in who do want to play for the club at this and a higher level.
That is why we will probably get a clearer picture of Albion’s intentions and ambitions by 11pm on Friday night.