If so-called fans want a taste of what it's like to be a real football supporter, come along to West Brom!

There you go! What did I tell you? No sooner had The Baggies begun to get the sort of playing form that deserved the unbeaten run we had been enjoying, culminating in the magnificent 5-0 drubbing of The Boro, than we slip back into the realms of uncertainty and those old nervy, anxious blacknesses begin to descend once again upon the navy-blue-and-white faithful as each game approaches.

Against Arsenal in the Carling Cup (and thanks to Arsenal for making the tickets so cheap for that game) we looked good until Thomas got himself sent off for silliness and even then managed to hold on for well over an hour before we were inevitably broken down by an impressive collection of Gooner youngsters.

That was neither here nor there, however. The Arsenal B team we played could, on their day, have given anyone a damned good run for their money. There was no reason to drop the heads nor slump the shoulders…

Enter Neil Warnock. Never a favourite at the Hawthorns since the Megson days, when Warnock’s Sheffield United, 3-1 down, conspired to reduce their team to six men and the game had to be abandoned… We still got the points, of course, but the tactics were shabby, to say the least.

Fast forward to September 26th 2009 and once again Warnock (who thought his Crystal Palace team was “super”) essentially parked the team in their own third of the pitch and played on the break.

West Brom was stifled and Palace snuck the winner. It hurt – it hurt a lot, but one cannot make excuses. We should have been ready for someone to come along and do that, but we seemed surprised when it finally happened.

We were missing our wide men, particularly Chris Brunt, I thought, but what happened next? Nothing short of our most dismal display of the season. Brunt was there – and scored a scorching goal – but by then the game was over and the team we beat 7-0 not so long ago were made to look as though the league table had been printed upside down.

Roberto di Matteo summed it up by saying we were “terrible”. Yup, that just about says it all. He went on to point out that you have to get the basics right, however well you are doing generally and against Barnsley, that simply didn’t happen.

We are now a healthy three points behind Newcastle – although sighs of relief all round, please, for the ineptitude of the three teams below us, who also lost.

We need to hope we can regain those ‘basic’ and our previous form and that Preston can go into something of a slump as we are now chasing the top team, rather than matching them.

You see, unlike some of these dodgy supporters of the upper echelons of the Premier League – and certain tabloid newspapers – the faithful tribe of The Albion (and all of the more modest clubs) cannot shift allegiance. While The Sun rallies to the support of the victors and Man City fans emerge from the woodwork, real fans go through the thick and the thin, gargle their sore larynx through the week and get ready for the next game and the chance to holler ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ at full volume.

If the Sun really wants to prove its influence at elections, let it support the Liberal Democrats and if these so-called fans want a real taste of what it is to be a football fan, come and join us on Saturday.

We’ll be fine as we are, but every little helps, as they say…

Andy Barrett

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