To be cut adrift in this Premier League season of all seasons is some achievement. Never before has the battle to survive been as closely fought between as many teams as it is right now.
With 10 matches left to play, six points separate Bournemouth in 11th and Stoke City in 19th. Almost every side in the bottom half has enjoyed a resurgence at one point or another, only to be dragged back into the mire as soon as their guard is down.
Every side, that is, except for West Brom.
The Baggies kicked off the season showcasing all the attributes that had made them sure bets to stay up since Tony Pulis’ arrival. Both Bournemouth and Burnley were beaten by 1-0 scorelines, meaning that after a fortnight West Brom sat atop of the table alongside Manchester United and ahead of Manchester City.
They so nearly made it three wins from three, only for a defensive mix-up to gift Peter Crouch a late equaliser as Stoke nicked a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns. Four days later Grzegorz Krychowiak – the metronomic midfielder who had impressed so much for Sevilla during their hat-trick of Europa League wins – arrived on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hailed as one of the signings of the summer.
Fast-forward six months, however, and the mood could not be more different. Pulis has gone having failed to win another Premier League match since the Burnley victory. In his place Alan Pardew occupies the technical area, a coach renowned for his fast starts when it comes to results at a new club.
While his failures at other clubs have come about when the infamous ‘Pardew Slide’ – a run of negative results that cannot be halted - rears its ugly head, there is little the former Newcastle and Crystal Palace boss does better than bring about a ‘new manager bounce’.
At West Brom he has won one of his first 14 league matches in charge.
With just three victories to their name all season, the Baggies find themselves six points adrift at the bottom of the table and seven from safety. Pardew remains in his job for now, though failure to beat Watford on Saturday will likely spell the end of his tenure.
Should he depart he will leave behind a mess of a club facing up to a first season outside the top-flight since 2009-10. Chinese owner Guochuan Lai has only been in situ for just over 18 months but is fast overseeing a disastrous period in the club’s recent history.
Chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman were both relieved of their duties earlier this month, with poor results blamed for their exit. Quite how much more they could have done, however, remains unclear.
While not universally popular with the wider footballing family, the decision to sack Pulis was the correct one. His style of play was never pretty, but while it brought about predominantly positive results it received a passing grade. When poor results are matched with dour football, a club’s board has little room to manoeuvre.
The appointment of Pardew, too, while uninspiring, certainly made sense when it came to securing survival this season given his previous record early in his previous jobs. Plenty of chairmen have got more than one managerial decision wrong and remain at the helm of various clubs.
Having seen the difficulties the likes of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolves have had in immediately returning to the promised land at the first attempt from close quarters, however, has likely panicked Guochuan. Quite why Pardew did not get the boot too remains a mystery.
Presuming Pardew does indeed receive his P45 in the coming days, the new manager – whomever that may be given the dearth of experienced alternatives available at this stage of the season – will walk into a dressing room in disarray.
The decision of four players – including the club captain and the player with the most appearances in Premier League history – to steal a taxi while on a trip to Barcelona has already gone down in infamy.
These incidents, as unsavoury as they are, can sometimes help pull a squad together, but two subsequent home defeats and reports of open mutiny from Chris Brunt towards Pardew in the aftermath of the loss to Huddersfield Town suggest otherwise.
Krychowiak’s misplaced pass and subsequent slump towards the ground in the build-up to the Terriers’ second goal on Saturday summed up a season that has gone from bad to worse for the Pole. He was joined in the home dressing room by another loan signing in January, with Daniel Sturridge signed from Liverpool to score the goals to keep West Brom up.
The only issue with signing an injury-plagued footballer is they tend to get injured. Sturridge did just that three minutes into the recent defeat at Chelsea. Their final hope sat in a heap on the Stamford Bridge turf just moments after kick-off neatly summed up the Baggies’ predicament.
From top to bottom, West Brom have gone from a solid Premier League outfit to a Championship side in waiting. It would take something even more remarkable than the Tony Mowbray-inspired ‘Great Escape’ of 2005 to keep their heads above water now. One down – two relegation places to play for.