RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Saturday, July 15

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: West Bromwich Albion F.C.

(an actual throstle on a hawthorn branch)

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football dork methodology meant to establish a listing of players who have been most active for English Premier League teams in their past 100 non-friendly matches. Essentially, it is calculated by minutes played, but weighted towards most recent games. The end result is a listing of the 25 players in a team’s recent history who have had the largest hand on their metaphysical sporting trajectory. The English Premier League was chosen because it is the highest level of football played in an English speaking country, and I speak English. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA, where I fucking live. And yet still I should clarify I hate English, and also America. Thus maybe I hate myself. Should I not fail in maintaining my unpaid deadline, a new 25-Man Metaphysical Roster will appear on the 1st and 15th of every month.]

We are in the thick of corporate chaos of transfer season and squads just starting to come together as friendly exhibition full group, with impending changes and shape shifting still to come in next few weeks before competitive non-friendly matches kick off in a few weeks. Early Champions League (Euro-centrically speaking) already going on in smaller locales (and Celtic).
West Bromwich Albion (or West Brom, as anybody actually bothering to read this knows them as) I didn’t know much about, club or namesake city. They are just another middle-of-the-pack EPL club that didn’t inspire love or hatred in me. But I got lost in a quick internet rabbithole and came out the other side more in love with the team. First off, the city West Bromwich (or the Bromwich part) is old language version of “Broom Village”, so they’re west of Broom Village. That’s a solid start. But also in the list of notable people from there are included Robert Plant, Phil Lynott, and K.K. Downing, thus essentially you could lay the claim (as a stretch) that West Brom the city helped give us Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, and Judas Priest. That’s a solid Acid at Stonehenge fest right there.
But onto the club itself, I’ve always enjoyed the fact their stadium was called The Hawthorns, because hawthorns are pretty chill border plants, because they grow like crazy, become an insane tangle of thorny not getting throughness, and are just a great fucked up shrub plant generally. The Hawthorns is called The Hawthorns because after West Brom Albion had bounced through half a dozen other stadiums like fucking nomads, they decided to build a place just outside West Brom and settle down, so a field full of hawthorns was cleared to build their stadium. I guess it should be of note that West Brom was one of the original founding clubs of The Football League, all the way back in 1888 (when America was still reconstructing itself after our Civil War), and actually were English champions (1920). Despite most of their existence being in the top tier, since the Premier League hyper-corporatized English football, they’ve not been a top tier mainstay, but they’ve been there since 2010 in this current stint. (Also please note that despite The Hawthorns being their first long-term home after a lot of bouncing around, The Hawthorns first hosted matches 117 years ago, so it’s not exactly a CORPORATE MODERN FOOTBALL spot, though obviously it has been upgraded and had the terraces replaced with family *cough *cough *Euro friendly seats and shit like that.)
But the real rabbithole of joy for me was their most famous badge, which features a little song thrush on a hawthorn branch. Aforementioned hawthorn appreciation aside, the song thrush (or throstle, with the high-larious Latin name of Turdus philomelos) – a famous little singing ass bird, known because they have pretty strong melodies which also repeat, pounding that in your head, thus they were earworms of sound for old school poets. (Sadly, we have no Turdus philomelos here in North America.) And the club tends to rock stripes, in sometimes unexplainable weird away colors at times (always YES from me to garish green and yellow striped strips, always). So after all was said and done, after a brief internet immersion in West Brom, who previously were just another anonymous middling club for me, I now have an affection for them just a little. Plus the city sounds like another classic English shithole which used to have iron works and booming industrialism but now is who knows what, much like Birmingham – a nearby rival city where club rivals exist. But most people have heard of Birmingham, and not West Brom, at least culturally (outside of football) speaking, so the only thing that makes a dying industrial place even better (worst) is it NOT being as famous as another nearby dying industrial place. This is why Flint, Michigan, is always more depressing than Detroit, no matter how sad Detroit gets.
Anyways, consider this your introduction, and now let me get onto the 25 men who occupy this club’s metaphysical list of most dominant presences in their past 100 matches, in terms of being on the goddamned pitch…
#1: Craig Dawson – Dawson kind of a weird roundabout guy to be at the top of a club’s metaphysical list, because he was not a big youth player, and in fact played on a local team while having a regular ass life before becoming a pro. Eventually, after lower league climb from Radcliffe Borough to Rochdale, he got signed to West Brom in 2010. But even since then he’s had long loan spells at both Rochdale and Bolton Wanderers. And also somewhat oddly, he rocks #25, when usually somebody who has gained seniority and regular spot on the starting XI will have moved into traditional 1 through 10, or not far off it in the teens. But he’s solidified himself as constant figure enough to get a new contract on the horizon, and also he was the most recent player to score a goal and an own goal in the same match in the Premier League.
#2: Darren Fletcher – Actual Scot, and aging legend who spent a dozen seasons with Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson (who loves him). He spent three seasons starring in the midfield for the Baggies before making a move to Stoke last month. You can tell what a huge presence he had on West Brom in his short time there though (aside from wearing captain’s armband in Chris Brunt’s off-and-on absence) because most every article about West Brom going into this new season talks about how the Baggies will fill the gap created by Fletcher’s departure.
#3: Gareth McAuley – West Brom got a good bit of a Northern Irish thing going on, and McAuley cut his teeth on the Protestant-y as fuck club Linfield (who just had heated – at lower level – tilt with very anti-Protestant Celtic in Champions League qualifiers this week). McAuley been holding down middle of defensive line since before 2011-12 season, and has over 70 caps for the Northern Irish national team as well.
#4: Ben Foster – The Baggies’ longtime GK is a lifelong West Midlands fucker, who was born in some sort of village with magical water called Leamington Spa, and came up as a youth and early semi-pro with Racing Club Warwick in the Midland Leagues. A Stoke City scout signed him in 2001, which mostly led to loan spells in strange places like Tiverton Town and Wrexham, and Foster actually was signed by Manchester United from 2005-2010, only appearing a dozen times for them, but spending over two full seasons on loan to Watford. But this decade, he’s returned to the Midlands, first to Birmingham City, before a loan to West Brom in 2011-12, and then signing full transfer after that, and never looking back. Foster is 34, which is prime GK time, but his GK coach at West Brom just recently hyped him up as saying he’d be their guy into his 40s, and one of their all-time greats by the end of that run. It must be that Leamington town water.
#5: Salomon Rondon – Rondon’s a Venezuelan, thus been embroiled in the chaos that is that country’s recent history, which had the bulk of the national team threatening to quit two years ago because of interference by corrupt officials in Venezuela. Came to West Brom from Russia, where he lit it up five years in a row, first for Rubin Kazan, then Zenit St. Petersburg, averaging over 10 goals a season while there.  He’s knocked in 18 in two seasons with the Baggies, and that’s been enough that recently West Ham’s been sniffing at him for a transfer, but West Brom manager Tony Pulis (who looks slightly like a smiling wrinkly penis) says he ain’t going anywhere. He’s issued the ol’ hands off warning like all good Football Managers do.
#6: Jonny Evans – Evans is another Northern Irish dude on their club, though he long ago left that connection behind, as he attended a Manchester United academy in Belfast, and impressed, but a kid couldn’t go to a youth academy more than 90 minutes distance from the club, so Evans family actually relocated to Manchester so that he could join their youth academy. (I’m sure there was nothing questionable about that move, and it was purely on the up-and-up, just like college basketball recruiting in America.) Actually had nearly 200 appearances for ManU before moving to West Brom two seasons ago, which would make you think he’s old as fuck, but no, not even 30 yet. So a Belfast kid with deep ManU roots? My love of hawthorn bushes and song thrushes is lessening already…
#7: Claudio Yacob – Every middling EPL club needs an Argentine. For West Brom, it’s Yacob, their defensive midfield rock of the past five seasons.
#8: Chris Brunt – Team captain, and another Northern Irishman, who’s been with the Baggies for over a decade now. He has been somewhat injury prone the past couple seasons though, and once famously got all pissy after getting hit in the head with a coin during an FA Cup tie against Reading.
#9: James McClean – So James McClean is an actual Irishman on an English club full of Northern Irishmen. That alone would not be necessarily controversial, if he assimilated in, but McClean actually grew up in the Creggan housing estates in Derry, Northern Ireland, where a lot of the sectarian problems called The Troubles occurred, including the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre (as memorialized by those U2 robots). McClean actually played for the Northern Ireland Under-21 team, but as he was about to be called up to the senior squad back in 2011, he dragged his feet, and held out to play for Republic of Ireland instead. On top of all this, McClean is somewhat hated in many English football circles because he’s one of the few who have always refused to wear the poppy patches, worn on Remembrance Day. In addition to all this, likely due to growing up in a shitty housing estate, he’s given a lot of charitable support to the homeless and alcoholics in Derry, and even bought a pregnant homeless woman a mobile home a few years back. In a league full of blanched personalities, McClean seems to have a conscience. And somehow he got stuffed onto a team full of guys who technically are from the some country as him (Northern Ireland) though his allegiances very clearly lie across the border (Republic of Ireland). God bless this fucker. (Catholic God, obviously.)
#10: Allan Nyom(previously ranked #13 for Watford, 01 June 2017) Another thing every middling EPL team needs is a black guy from France. That’s where Allan Nyom comes in. He came over from Watford before last season, making 33 appearances in all competitions.
#11: James Morrison – Morrison been with West Brom for a decade now too, and comes into this season with a fucked up knee.
#12: Matt Phillips – Along with Morrison, another dude who was born and raised in England, but plays for Scotland national team. West Brom full of national identity crisis players it seems (or more likely, guys who weren’t gonna crack the English senior team). I really should explore English (or British) political clusterfuck more, but that would require getting out of England alone, and then one has to wonder do I expand this stupid theme of a 25-man Metaphysical list to include Celtic? And if I do that, do I expand into the top teams (who are also relatively shitty) from Wales or Northern Ireland too? I don’t know man, allowing myself to get suckered into following English Premier League but pretending I’m somehow edgy or partial anti-English by supporting the Welsh team feels like a psychological trick I played on myself. Sports is fucking stupid.
#13: Nacer Chadli – Chadli currently is West Brom’s highest paid player, having come over from Spurs before last season, clocking £75K a week (which is small potatoes for Big Four club, which I guess is now Six, and maybe Seven after this summer), but allegedly had a spat with manager Tony Pulis when workouts began again, and was left at home (well, West Brom) when they went to Austria last week. However, everything appears to be okay now, and he was back with the squad as they headed to Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia tournament. It must be hard on these dudes when their training camp before the official season starts is a WORLDWIDE EXPANSION OF THE EPL BRAND. Not exactly easing into the season. Side note: Chadli was record signing for West Brom last year, at £13 mil, which is less than Swansea’s record signing, so that means the team I support is not the cheapest ass club in the EPL. Of course, our record signing was Borja Baston, who is already gone, after one season, and already talking to Spanish press about what a clusterfuck his time at Swansea was.
#14: Jonas Olsson – Swede who had been top defender for the club in the late aughts/early 2010s, but had slipped into secondary role this past season, with no look at more playing time on the horizon. At age 34, he made the move back to native Sweden to sign for Djurgardens IF, who splashed out on a couple of other top Swedish nationals. But Olsson served the Baggies for nine seasons, with over 250 appearances in that time.
#15: Craig Gardner – Gardner free transferred from Sunderland to West Brom three seasons back, and featured prominently in the midfield for the first two, but last year became expendable and was sent on loan to Birmingham City, where he helped the nearby West Midlands club avoid relegation down to League One. He was justly rewarded with a permanent transfer, which of course is never permanent.
#16: Jake Livermore(previously ranked #4 for Hull City, 01 March 2017) Livermore came to West Brom from the sinking ship of Hull City this past January, where he had previously played for about a thousand years.
#17: Saido Berahino(previously ranked #23 for Stoke City, 01 July 2017) Wrote about Berahino earlier this month, because he moved to Stoke this past January. But before that, the young man had spent his entire youth and professional career with West Brom, despite being of Burundian birth. His time at West Brom ended on troubled notes, with drug suspensions and depression and weight gain and all sorts of trifling bullshit. The kid (he’s still only 23) left his native Burundi after his father was killed in the Civil War there, and traveled to England alone, to find the rest of his family. Obviously there’s some psychic scars there, but he’s a striker, so hopefully he can find a new psychic home to settle into somewhere (probably won’t be Stoke to be honest) and find some footballing peace. Or flame out in glorious fashion.
#18: Stephane Sessegnon – Former Baggie who left for Montpellier in France’s Ligue One before last season. He spent three seasons with West Brom, but being from Benin, a French-speaking nation (due to colonialism, naturally), his most settled years have been in France. Played youth football in Benin for a team called The Sharks of the Atlantic. Fuck yeah.
#19: Boaz Myhill – Nowhere are there more confusing cultural identities than the world’s football. Boaz, who is not named Boaz at all, is a Welsh player who grew up in England, but was born in the U.S.A. His folks wanted to name him Boaz after encountering the name in Israel, but were talked out of it by other family. However, he’s been called Boaz his entire life. Previously spent seven seasons at Hull City, helping them move from Division Three (League Two) to League One to Football Championship, and finally the Premier League, before moving to West Brom before 2010-11 season, though he has rarely been their go-to GK that entire time, and last year only appeared in Cup tie “let the main guy rest” duties.
#20: Hal Robson-Kanu – Another Welshman, and one of Wales top strikers, which doesn’t mean much once get beyond Gareth Bale, so he’s like the 89th top striker in the EPL, which is why he only wears #4.
#21: James Chester – Another classic story of Manchester United youth academy prospect, who was contracted to the club as pro for four years, making a single solitary appearance (in a League Cup match). He actually only spent one season two years ago at West Brom, as primary fill-in at center back, with over two dozen appearances, but dropped back to Football Championship side Aston Villa last season as part of their relegation retool. Also a Welshman.
#22: Rickie Lambert – White English striker who never lived up to this Liverpool youth academy potential, outside of a five-season run with Southampton up from League One to Premier League, and now is condemned to Cardiff City hell for his sins against football goodness.
#23: Sam Field – 19-year-old midfielder who was promoted from their youth academy to the main club for a single appearance, before signing a professional contract before last season, when he made 9 appearances. He’s from Grimsby, which contrary to town name, had no real influence on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That last sentence makes me realize I’ve never once in my life considered the football allegiances of members of Hawkwind before. And with Hawkwind mentioned, let this be your friendly reminder to not google what Stacia looks like now or really at any point after her “dance naked while on acid” life phase. Props to the young Sam Field for leading my dimwitted brain to Stacia writhing around in 1971. I’m going outside to masturbate in the hawthorns now.
#24: Brendon Galloway – West Brom has not really had a great variety of players over their recent history, which is why Galloway, who only appeared five matches during a loan spell from Everton to West Brom last season, can still make this last at #24. Will be spending this year on loan to newly-relegated Sunderland, which I guess means Everton (who he is contracted to) have not officially given up on him just yet.

#25: Victor Anichebe – Nigerian striker who famously made the Everton reserve team at 15, and his senior team debut at 17. Had a good enough run with Everton, but never really became dominant, so did the EPL slow downgrade from Everton to West Brom for three seasons, and then down even further to Sunderland last season, where he helped them be the worst team in the Premier League. Took his talents to Beijing Enterprises a couple weeks back, getting that Chinese League money, except Beijing Enterprises is not in the Chinese Super League but League One a level below.

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