By Laurie Fitzgerald

West Brom travel to Old Trafford this afternoon in search of a record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League victory as they aim for their first ever top-half finish in the league’s existence.

Wins over Wolves, Sunderland and Chelsea have propelled the Baggies from potentially being dragged into a relegation battle to firmly securing their top-flight status and look forward to a third consecutive season amongst England’s elite – another first in their Premier League history.

Ironically, Chelsea’s decision to sack manager Andre Villas-Boas saw them replace their Portuguese boss with a man that was at the centre of a major turning point in West Brom’s Premier League future.

Last year, Roberto Di Matteo was at the helm and winning many plaudits after guiding the Midlands club to the Premier League in his first season in charge with a positive attacking style earning them famous wins away at the likes of Arsenal and Everton.

But when the side went on a run of four points from a possible 27, Chairman Jeremy Peace had a big decision to make; stick with the man that had guided the club back to the top-flight, or find someone with greater experience in the hope of coming in and securing long-awaited stability in the biggest league in the world.     

Peace’s decision was the latter as Di Matteo was sacked and replaced by Roy Hodgson, who had just seen his managerial credentials questioned after a disappointing spell in charge at Liverpool.

A run of just two defeats in their next eleven league games followed as Albion steered well clear of the bottom three and finished in 11th place.

That run may have been enough for many fans that Peace had his decision justified to change managers two-thirds of the way through the campaign, but the big test was to come.

West Brom had previously survived under Bryan Robson with their ‘Great Escape’ back in 2005, only to be relegated the following season as the Baggies earned their ‘boing-boing’ tag.

Could Hodgson finally make West Brom a stable Premier League outfit in a similar way to how Tony Pulis has turned Stoke City into a fully-fledged top-flight club?

Despite some mixed home form earlier in the season, Albion are now 13 points clear of the drop-zone and well in the hunt of securing their highest finish in over 25 years.

They’ve become a well-organised unit – as is the case with many Hodgson sides – but they also have a touch of quality going forward that has made them a well-balanced team.

They have a strong spine at the back in goalkeeper Ben Foster and the ever-improving defensive duo of Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson, and the understated signings of the likes of Paul Scharner, Keith Andrews and Nicky Shorey have added valuable experience to the squad.

In the midfield they have plenty of creativity, with James Morrison really starting to come of age in the absence of the injured Chris Brunt, but the likes of Steven Reid and Youssouf Mulumbu have given the heart of the side real steel.

Importantly, they have the players up front to provide the firepower required to continue their push up the league, with Peter Odemwingie‘s pace and class complimenting the tireless work-rate of the likes of Shane Long, Simon Cox and Marc-Antoine Fortune.

Now West Brom are on the cusp of cementing their place at the top table of English football once again – and fully justifying a decision of their bold Chairman that has reaped the rewards for Baggies supporters everywhere.

So what do you think? Can the Baggies secure their best-ever Premier League finish? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

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