I did write in this column on June 25 that, in the words of Kevin Keegan, I would ‘love it’ if Bobby Zamora rejoined the Albion.
So, on Monday, a thoroughly enjoyable 51st birthday was crowned with, not only a very pleasant meal with the commander-in-chief and the junior Hartys, it was topped off on leaving the restaurant with the news that BZ was coming home.
I’m under no illusions that this is not the year 2000 and he’s not an exciting 19-year-old striker. But what he has now, apart from the obvious commercial value with shirt sales, etc, is 15 years’ experience and is someone who will be both invaluable on the pitch and, equally as important, in the dressing room.
The cynics and critics are quick to find fault. Questions of fitness and the fact, initially pointed out by a Crystal Palace fan, that only about 6,000 of the Amex faithful have previously seen him in an Albion shirt.
Immaterial, this signing, in my opinion, will prove to be one of the most significant in the club’s history.
For the record, I think that while his pre-season hasn’t been what he would have liked, he will play a part in a significant amount of games, and, as you know, I like a prediction, he will score 12 goals this season.
But will they play Peters and Lee on Friday night at the Amex?
n It doesn’t seem five minutes since Norwich beat Middlesbrough in the Championship play-off final, bringing down the curtain on last season.
Yet, as many a football widow will testify, it all starts again tomorrow night at the Amex with the televised game, between Albion and Nottingham Forest.
So, with the big kick-off, it’s time for the traditional Harty’s predictions for the forthcoming campaign.
Starting at the top, while Arsenal will probably last the title race course longer this year, you can’t look any further than either Chelsea or City to win the title, and this year I think the trophy will head back north.
At the other end of the table, it’s easy to trot out the three promoted clubs going straight back down, while I think Watford will probably not cut the mustard, I think Norwich and Bournemouth will survive at the expense of Leicester City and Sunderland. Down in the Championship, clearly Derby and Middlesbrough have spent big after missing out last year, while Fulham might come in under the radar having gone down the “Moneyball” route and now have the three highest “assist” providers from last year’s Championship.
If they can find someone to convert those chances, backed by a young exciting crop of homegrown players, they could be this year’s surprise package, so sticking my neck out, they are my tip.
As for the Albion, this is a pivotal season as results on the pitch will dictate the level of renewals in the corporate areas for season 2016-17, which is key to the Albion’s long-term development.
I’ve already spoken about one particular player acquisition and I’m sure, before the window shuts, there will be more.
There has to be nothing less than a sustained play-off challenge, coupled with a long cup run in either of the domestic competitions to convince supporters that’s it worth investing in the Albion for another five years or so.
For what’s its worth, I think Chris Hughton will come good and a minimum top-six place will be forthcoming in May (but I have been wrong before).
Elsewhere, relegation from the Championship, whoever, provided it’s not the Albion, and to win Leagues One and Two, all the Ps, Peterborough and Portsmouth.
Enjoy the season and, if you can’t get to the Albion, come on down to Woodside Road!
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