West Bromwich Albion’s eight-year stay in the Premier League has met its lamentable end with Southampton’s win at Swansea on Tuesday, and as the Baggies prepare for life in the second tier, several players in the squad will feel they deserve top-flight football.
Short on budding talent, West Brom’s first team is rife with familiar names, both dependable veterans and journeyman navigating the various divisions of English football. Here’s a glance at a half-dozen Baggies that merit a Premier League stay:
Linked in January with Manchester City, Tottenham, and Arsenal, 68-time capped Northern Ireland international Evans is a no-nonsense centre-half whose composure on the ball would suit several top-flight sides. The 30-year-old Belfast-born Manchester United academy product comes cheap with a reported £3-million relegation-contingent release clause, and with his wage demands unlikely to surpass £70,000 per week, this one is a no-brainer.
Like centre-back brethren Evans, Egypt international Hegazi is a poised defender who has received praise this season at the Hawthorns despite the club’s dire standing. West Brom exercised a modest £4-million permanent option on Hegazi’s loan from Al Ahly in December, and with Liverpool and Leicester reportedly intrigued by the 27-year-old World Cup-bound ball-stopper, a move to a mid-table side requiring a bolstered backline should prove financially shrewd.
Odd man out at Arsenal after Sead Kolasinac’s move to Islington in the summer, longtime Gunner Gibbs moved to the Hawthorns in the summer for a scant £6.75 million and has made 32 league appearances for the Baggies at left-back. Gibbs can also deputise in a more advanced role, and with an eye for an incisive pass and a temperament that rarely sees him dive in for a rash challenge, the 28-year-old is an ideal starter for a lower-half side or second option for a mid-table outfit with European ambitions.
Belgium international Chadli’s sophomore season at the Hawthorns hasn’t quite gone to plan after a club-record £13-million move from Tottenham. With a significant hamstring injury limiting the winger to just five appearances in all competitions, Chadli is the forgotten man at West Brom, though a versatile skill set and eye for goal mean the 28-year-old still has heaps to offer. Perhaps former Spurs gaffer/noted talent savant Tim Sherwood put it best, saying, “He affects the football match.”
Scotland international winger Phillips has made a career out of being a dynamic, pacey presence among stodgy shin-kickers after a successful spell at QPR saw the 27-year-old move to West Brom in July 2016. Like Chadli, Phillips is a wide player whose virtues seem incongruent with the Baggies’ ball-hoofing ethos but has plenty to offer, and on the cheap with wages somewhere in the neighbourhood of £40,000 weekly. Content to play anywhere on the right, Phillips can even fill in a full-back spot in a pinch.
England manager Gareth Southgate sees something in the 28-year-old midfielder, and it’s likely somebody in the Premier League will as well. A defensive mid who can also fill-in at centre-half, Livermore has been decent in his first full season at the Hawthorns by virtue of being a more mobile, less violent version of Claudio Yacob. And he’s reportedly drawn the attention of Aston Villa, whose manager, Steve Bruce, coached Livermore at Hull City.
There’s always room for a 35-year-old ‘keeper with loads of top-flight experience, and whether it be as a first-choice option for a promoted side or as a willing deputy for a mid-table outfit, Foster will have a job next season in the Premier League. Capped on eight occasions by England, Foster admitted plans to stay at the club if it’s relegated, but that may very well just be a way to curry favour/avoid having his house egged by Baggies faithful.