we will only know with the passage of time, but this may have been the moment that heralded the return of west bromwich albion as one of the country's top football clubs. that is not to suggest that they will ever win the league title (or even challenge for a top-four finish, for that matter); and they certainly won't win the UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. but long term survival in the PREMIER LEAGUE? an FA or LEAGUE CUP final? qualification for the EUROPA LEAGUE?!? these are all certainly possibilities and achievable goals for a club of the size and resource of west bromwich albion.
when the PREMIER LEAGUE began in the 1992-93 season, west bromwich albion was just coming out of the worst period in the club's history; as well as the lowest finish in the league ever - 7th in the old 3rd DIVISION.
that same year, the baggies - having finished 4th in the new LEAGUE DIVISION 2, won promotion through a 3-2 victory over swansea in a two-legged semi-final; and in their first wembley appearance since 1970 they beat port vale 3-0 to make their return to the second-tier.
following several years of relatively mediocre football, west bromwich albion were returned to the top-flight (now called the PREMIER LEAGUE) under the guidance of gary megson and featuring the prolific goal-scoring of lee hughes. however, this was one of the weakest teams ever to qualify for the competition and they were relegated immediately. thus began a decade of flirtation with promotion/relegation scenarios between the top-flight and what is now called the FOOTBALL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP. the baggies have not played in the same division for more than two years consecutively since.
this, of course, will change next year when the baggies will be competing in the BARCLAY'S PREMIER LEAGUE for the third season running. depending on what they actually go on to accomplish during their time in the top flight - and however long that might be - this just may be the match in which they finally arrived as a bona fide PREMIER LEAGUE side. the baggies defended like demons against a misfiring liverpool and took their late chance to win the match in opportunistic fashion and in the manner of a club instilled with a culture of "winning".
make no mistake - this match was won more by the management of roy hodgson, and his philosophy that to win in football you have to keep the other side from scoring than it was down to any individual performances. it's no coincidence that the baggies did not concede in any of their recent victories. even their loss to manchester city, with its final scoreline of 4-0, might have been worse had it not been for the form of goalie, ben foster and the play of centre-half, craig dawson, who deputized for jonas olsson on short notice, as the big swede had picked up an injury during the pre-game warm-up.
while not all west brom supporters have been supportive of the gaffer as a tactician - or appreciated his style of football - it has seen the baggies through the successful end of one season, and - as things stand at the minute - an even more successful season this year. after this win west brom is 10th in the table and on course to finish ahead of where they did last year. i'm not surprised that there are some discontented fans. since as early as the 1950s, aggressive attacking football has been the order of the day at the hawthorns, and i can see how a diet of away wins would starve a home season ticket holder, but there is no arguing with success and they learned to live with tight, disciplined football under gary megson for that very reason. eventually, everyone will have to defer to the gaffer and admit that its been a good time for the club and there's every reason to believe that it can continue.
it was in the 75th minute - and with the baggies defence having weathered relentless attack by the reds - youssouf mulumbu pressured liverpool right-back, glen johnson, into giving the ball away in dangerous area and at a crucial time in the match. the congolese midfielder then pushed the ball on for peter odemwingie and with space opening up in front of him, the nigerian took on reds' goalie, pepe reina, giving him a look at the far post but putting the ball in the net on the spaniard's near-side. there was little reina could do but stand and watch as the albion had scored their first goal at anfield in their last five visits.
it was fitting that the baggies earned this victory 45 years to the day since they had last posted a win at anfield. the winning goal that day was scored by club legend, jeff astle. at the time, west bromwich albion were in the middle of a golden period for the club, which saw them win both the LEAGUE and FA CUPs as well as appearances in two more wembley finals.
the baggies were by no means dominant going forward and luis suarez looked the best player in that respect for long periods - especially in the second half. but ben foster in the albion goal has been playing better and better as the season moves towards its climax, while jonas olsson and gareth mcauley showed, once again, why they are the best centre-half pairing to wear the navy-and-white stripes since the days of ally robertson and john wile. the duo threw themselves into a series of tackles and blocked shots that were essential to the albion's defensive performance and ultimate victory. however, the real star for the baggies was striker, shane long.
while the irish international has been in and out of the side through injury and illness for much of the season, his tireless running of the channels, winning of aerial balls and pressing play up front was a major factor in the win. his work against liverpool was first class and as good as any showing he has put in all year. long's was the standout performance in a team of standout performances.
it has been a year of dispelling long time hoodoos and putting them to rest, but this was one of the really big ones. next, the baggies will try and complete the double over aston villa (at home) and cement their place as the top team in the west midlands.