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.

Sunday, August 23

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: WEST BROMWICH ALBION FC

{Baggies fans celebrating promotion to PL; this happens every 5 yrs lol} 

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson. Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, VENMO US FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

When the Championship season ends each year, and three teams have gained promotion, there's generally a sense of excitement around one, maybe two clubs, who are returning after a long hiatus, or getting there for the first time, on an upward trajectory, often times around new ownership or some influx of managerial genius or financial investment (and sometimes both). And then others just feel like tired retreads, who aren't quite good enough to hold on to a Premier League existence, but are probably too good for the Championship. And that's West Brom. They've actually been promoted to the Premier League four times since it's inception in 1992, and relegated from it three times. The last run, they lasted eight seasons, but that ended with a last place finish in 2018. It took them two seasons, but they're back. Chinese billionaire Lai Guochuan bought the club back in 2016, with the intent of having a nice shiny Premier League toy, so their return probably comes with the expectation they remain. There's only 20 Premier League spots, and that field is getting crowded by the international tycoon marks throwing money into the English football system, hoping to squeeze a cash cow for more gold. This has coincided with high profile manager Slaven Bilic, who has never really come across as all that amazing in charge of clubs. His tenure at West Ham ended in failure, and he did well earlier in Turkey, but really his real claim to managerial fame was all in his native Croatia, with a brief stint at Hajduk Split and then a long solid run in charge of the Croatian national team. But that ended in the summer of 2012, and he's been coasting on fumes ever since. This past season, the combination of a good squad for the Championship level, gave him the firepower to finish 2nd. But much like the club itself, Bilic has shown himself to be a tweener - not quite good enough for the Premier League, but maybe too good for the Championship. And in fact, this squad is stacked with such figures. So really the football metaphysics comes down to whether, in the realm of tweeners, like themselves and fellow promoted club Fulham and survivors of last season's Premier League like Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, and Bilic's old club West Ham, if they can finish ahead of three other tweener level clubs. That's really the goal here. There's no shock top-8 finish in the works for a club like West Brom. [RAVEN]

#1: SAM JOHNSTONE (previously ranked #19 for Aston Villa on 01-Jul-2019; also his FIRST METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Longtime League One and Championship level keeper, it says something maybe that West Brom’s most important player from a psychic energies standpoint, or at least their most capped or however Raven calculates this shit, is a keeper and not a flashy offensive minded player or even a stalwart defender/Spirit Warrior. I’m not sure what it says exactly other than it says something. Maybe? I don’t know. Fuck it. Still, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for a keeper, especially as West Brom is making the trip up to the Premier League and Johnstone will finally get his shot at the bigtime, or at least the Let’s Avoid Relegation time. Either way. He originally was a Manchester United Young Boy who never broke through with the side, which is hardly a thing to be ashamed about and probably saved him from a spiritual and psychic point of view. He spent most of that time on loan, like I said before kicking around both League One and the Championship. He was actually the Man of the Match 4 times in only 18 appearances for Doncaster back in 2013/14, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment so he can definitely get the job done at the Championship level. We’ll have to see if he makes it finally at the Premier League level, and it would kind of be a tragedy if he couldn’t after all this time. His dad, Glenn, actually played for one season in the old Football League, the precursor to the Premier League back with Preston North End and his brother, Max Johnstone, plays in Scotland for St. Johnstone which is kind of a weird coincidence name wise. I mean, this is not a family that has ever been able to really crack The Big Time aka Premier League football, so it would be kind of a shame if Sam couldn’t cut it. But he’ll get his chance, and while admittedly the psychic energies are a bit shaky here, it would be a nice story for both him and his family. His dad is now a car panel beater aka a mechanic and something my own dad would have been called if he were English and not a degenerate American so at the very least this is a family who isn’t exactly made of gold although maybe their hearts are and that’s all that matters for Spirit Warrior and Psychic reasons. I am hoping he does well. [NEIL]

#2: JAKE LIVERMORE (up five from #7 last time West Brom was metaphysically ranked on 15-May-2018 before their last relegation) – Livermore is the stoic looking man in the middle for West Brom, who began as a Spurs wonderkid, but never caught on at that club, despite half a decade of loans out to lower leagues to try and make it stick. The majority of those loans were to the Championship, and then after two full seasons with Spurs, partially getting time on the pitch, they finally moved him to lower feeder Hull City. That two-and-a-half year spell with Hull was the definition of tweener at the top two levels, where he played in the majority of their matches, but they were relegated after the first season, then promoted after his second. Same at West Brom, where he switched mid-season transfer window in early 2017, spent 18 months in the Premier League with the Baggies, got relegated, remained, and spent the past two years in the Championship. Textbook tweener - not quite good enough to stay in the Premier League but not quite bad enough to remain in the Championship. Promotion/relegation creates these realms of players that don’t entirely fit on the pyramid. But it’s much more exciting for a man like Livermore to actually be active, taking part in all these things, even if he remains in this grey area of clubs that are always going to be in the relegation scrum and promotional battle, because that’s got to feel better than just sitting in a nice leather chair pitchside for a bigger club, hoping you get a few minutes somewhere other than Cup ties, and hoping those few minutes go well enough you get a few more. What a shitty situation for the stockpiled tweener talent to be in - just a living purgatory of not doing shit but waiting for someone to give you a brief opportunity to prove the potential you probably have started questioning yourself. [RAVEN]

#3: KYLE BARTLEY – [Finally setting down to work on these dudes, because it has been a WEEK; as y’all have read me rant here and there, I am a tenuously employed college professor and as y’all have likely seen in the media, U.S. educational institutions across the board are acting the pandemic fool and thus I am steadily embroiled in a daily shitshow—so as my lovely wife pointed out this evening, I am making time to write about football metaphysics of the West Brom variety AS A TREAT]. Frankly, I don’t know where to begin with Bartley here, other than to lay out first and foremost that I hate the motherfucker. Primarily, I’m sure it has to do with him being a former Rangers player, on loan for a couple of seasons with them from the Arsenal of his youth stockpiling. Hell, he didn’t even make all that many appearances for the Blue Focus of My Contempt, nor did he make much of an impact there (injury aside) despite coming in with that EPL pedigree that gets us SPL marks on both sides of the divide all excited. And to be sure, there are plenty of former Rangers players I hold no particular ill will towards, but that’s probably mostly dudes that didn’t make much of an impression on me, for one reason or another. For instance, speaking of Arsenal, I don’t have any seething disgust for Arteta, other than that he’s the Arsenal manager now. But Bartley I took an instant dislike to, mostly because I think he had it in his mind that he was a big shit come to show them Scottish boys what was up. I have no evidence, but I do wonder if many a Rangers fan themselves do not retain particularly fond memories of the dude. Undeserved swagger, which will be off-putting to most anyone of decency. And it was really fucking undeserved—Bartley is….not a good player, even by SPL standards. He seemed, in a word/phrase, just dumb as fuck. A central defender don’t have to exactly be a footballing intellectual, and many is the club supporter base that calls out for the “no-nonsense” brute center back that just clears any ball, by head or feet, that happens his way. But I really only watch Rangers play when it’s an Old Firm match, and I don’t recall any of them in which Kyle covered himself in glory. In fact, I think he got wrecked pretty regularly by the Celtic forward line. So back to Arsenal for Kyle, only to get dumped to Swansea for a million pounds, which is actually almost insulting, considering he still had a big long Arsenal contract going on. So poor dude, it seems, never really settles anywhere until he gets his West Brom run—injuries and what I’m going to assume is his general mediocrity (at best) keep him from really completing a first choice full season until a Leeds loan and then a full transfer to the Baggies. So the second point on which Kyle disgusts me is his name itself. “Kyle” is a wretched given name, particularly in an American context. It might work differently in Britain, and that’s fine. Even Kyle MacLachlan might be a good dude, looking all nasty-swarthy in that Showgirls movie. But here in the U.S., almost any hard “K” given name on a dude is gonna spell “asshole”—especially in someone born after, I don’t know, 1980. It’s one of them names that the most fucked up of American white people—the Bougie Redneck—absolutely loves. Of course it reaches its pinnacle in that American Sniper war criminal racist motherfucker what Divine justice smacked downed (I know it was his last name, but still, that probably makes it even worse—a whole breed of genocidal shitheads). There’s always going to be the hyper-personal rolling up too, to confirm the metaphysics—probably the most odious shitstain human being I know is named Kyle—philandering, Trump-worshipping, towel-boy sports junkie, real-estate whitey-on-the-make grifter. Crown Royal and Michelob-drinking regional-state university class-ring-wearing motherfucker. Owing to a complexity of interpersonal relationships dictated by the niceties of social convention that are maybe hopefully getting tossed out the damn window as U.S. society unravels, I had to grin and be friendly with said dude (despite every goddamn molecule in my body trying to rebel against the inherent evil they recognized). I even got him “into” firearms, as an attempt at a “dude time” experience (cause we sure as shit weren’t playing the golf he obsessed over), and it may well be a top 3 regret in my life, because I could totally see him pulling some Zimmerman shit (easily) and that’s on my head. Thinking about it, “Kevin” might be ok. But them Kyles and them Kirks, the Camerons and the Codys. I don’t know, you’ll have to prove yourself to me before I believe there’s any decency in you. To clarify, our Bartley here is of Jamaican ancestry and English, so maybe it’s different. But I can’t help but be tainted by my American perspective. The final laugh on Bartley is that he’s one of the few players that I’ve actually seen in the flesh. Raven and I rolled to a Swansea friendly, of all things, at the dilapidated local stadium for a match against “our” (very) shitty local soccer club. It was funny as hell, because the Swansea squad wouldn’t even leave their damn idling and air-conditioned bus until the last second before kickoff, like the rump Skynyrd playing a state fair or some shit. Bartley was playing (I think even captaining), and Raven and I were sitting pretty much pitchside, and after hearing me declare “I hate that motherfucker” as Bartley was trying to look all EPL quality despite getting worked by a bunch of U.S. college boys and some Japanese forward that I guess went to a local university, started encouraging me to heckle his ass (as Raven has mentioned, he himself is a Swansea supporter). I will never not think this memory is funny. Anyway, Bartley will not cut it in the least in the EPL, he will probably get destroyed regularly as his club struggles to not finish dead last. If there’s any mercy in Bilic (should he still be around by mid-season), I wouldn’t be surprised if Bartley is a bench backup sooner rather than later. [PAUL]

#4: SEMI AJAYI – A Nigerian dude, or at least the son of Nigerian parents, I am obviously rooting for this dude, especially because he has bounced around the sub-Premier League level for a number of years. His best year came with Rotherham United in their debut season in the Championship, which saw him score 7 goals which is a real accomplishment for a defender/defensive midfielder. It even managed to get him the Championship player of the month for March 2019, so this is a dude who is at or near the peak of his abilities. It was enough to get him noticed by West Brom, who snatched him up, and a good thing too as he helped them make the jump to the Premier League where he’ll finally get his shot. He almost did with Arsenal about a half decade ago but like with most of these dudes it never really worked out and so here he is, ready to finally make the Dream come true. He’s also featured at the Under-20 level for Nigeria, which is an admirable choice for an English born dude. Like I said, both his parents are Nigerian, so he made the right choice, although who am I to really say? Sometimes, I feel a bit paternalistic making these sorts of judgments. People should just be happy. But happiness is an amorphous thing and it can be tough to be happy if you’re not staying true to yourself, and honestly, fuck England. Then again, if that was what made him truly happy, then who knows? I am just rambling about this shit, but sometimes I honestly wonder about these things. Am I being shitty by demanding that the Spiritually Whole ride with African squads simply because of my own paternalistic tendencies? I mean, it is perhaps a Noble Paternalism, but is that really a thing? Is it a White Guilt sort of thing? I mean, white people probably should feel guilty for being History’s Shitheads, but who am I to demand a dude play for any country or any squad? Is even asking the question White of me? These are hard things to ask oneself and can lead you down a rabbit hole of self-recrimination and stupid thoughts, but are they important thoughts? Are any? And yet, I still feel comfortable saying I enjoy rooting for someone who plays for the Nigerian national team rather than the English version. Fuck it. FUCK IT. [NEIL]

#5: ROMAINE SAWYERS – Romaine Sawyers is an interesting minor spirit warrior, to be honest. Not to the level anybody will ever know him as a Premier League superstar, like Mo Salah or Sadio Mane, but more of an anonymous obscure spirit warrior. Sawyers was raised by his single mother in Birmingham, alongside foster children she also raised, and instilled in a young Romaine a deep sense of community service. He’s worked on the community development teams at most of the clubs he’s been with. He also has a Caribbean heritage, so plays for the St. Kitts & Nevis national team, which are a pair of small islands in the West Indies, which is the smallest sovereign nation in the western hemisphere, both in terms of geographical size as well as population, which is only about 52,000 people. The islands are over 90% African heritage though, and gained their independence in the 1960s. It’s so interesting that the Civil Rights movement was so prominent in the USA in the ‘60s, but meanwhile you had a massive movement for independence from colonial rule in Africa and the West Indies by African heritage people. America’s melting pot attempted to assimilate that, unsuccessfully, which leaves us having the exact same damn problems half a century later. But in the context of Romaine Sawyers, who is the Nevisian national team player playing at the highest level internationally right now, how that must feel, having been born back in England, but taking regular trips back to your family’s homeland, touching ground there and walking around, and representing it. I think about that a lot with the African players as well who are born in Europe but play for their parents teams, or even the Irish and Welsh and Scottish players who have lived in England their whole life. The history of colonialism has disturbed the flow of people, and rarely do we get the excuse to dig backwards along those family trees. And even though the practice in international football is usually a pyramid system in itself, where the former colonial heavyweights get to pick the cream of the crop of immigrant children who have arrived, and those not quite great enough trickle back down to the lands of their parents and grandparents, it’s still in interesting example of going back to our roots. I wish the rest of us could do this as well, an start to chip away at these very basic black/white differences applied to us. Of course, for most African heritage people not in Africa, the records are lost because the generations before were seen as property, not people, and thus a stark difference in white and black access to history is automatically obvious. But still though, unless we dig at all this bullshit, all these cycles of suppression and revolt are just going to keep occurring, with new flags being the only difference. By the way, on the flag front, the St. Kitts and Nevis national flag is pretty great - pan-African colors with two white stars for the two islands. [RAVEN]

#6: MATHEUS PEREIRA – Genuinely exciting and skillful looking attacking player that West Brom have shifted all across that just-behind-the-striker frontline. Matheus comes out of Brazil, developing at Sporting Portugal, who I suppose I should have an associational affinity for, given that they also play in green and white hoops. I remember a friendly a few years back where Celtic played Sporting in Glasgow, and something fucked up was going on with the Celtic kits for that season—either they were transitioning between suppliers, or someone got the procurement wrong and the away kit was ready before the home kit, or (perhaps most likely) some dumbass corporate dude thought it’d be a good time to pimp the away kit for that season, especially since it was “just” a friendly. So Sporting wore the green and white hoops at Celtic Park, while the Bhoys turned out in whatever their away kit was that season. Goddamn were there some ANGRY-ass Celtic fans. That was some metaphysical transgression of the highest type. The announcers were pissed. Social media posts were frothing. I can almost guarantee someone lost their fucking job. It’s an intriguing and variable position in the world’s football—some clubs will fuck around and not much care which of their season kits they wear at home. Other clubs, like Celtic, have that home kit that absolutely, positively, must be worn at ALL home matches. In fact, if that’s a club’s stance, I’d guess they usually are pretty insistent that said first kit be wore at ANY opportunity when it doesn’t conflict with the opposition on their home turf. Even some of Celtic’s more awesome commemorative kits that were supposed to be reproductions of historical jerseys from pre-hoops days (like a 100 years ago—think of that expanse of time when you set the world’s football against bullshit American sports) are off limits for home matches. I bet that shit drives corporate boosters and kit manufactures fucking crazy—“how you gonna sell shit if you don’t show it off?” So while I definitely like my collection of beautiful-ugly second and third strips, and I maybe do sometimes wish they’d wear them more in away matches even if they didn’t have to (just for variety), I suppose I’m ultimately proud to support a curmudgeonly traditionalist club that almost certainly vexes commerce, at least in some small degree. Anyway, Matheus (a pleasant name, particularly in comparison to a “Kyle”) got loaned to West Brom, with one of those “trigger” appearance buyout clauses that frustrates me in Football Manager. So West Brom get Pereira for 8 million, which might be a bargain of sorts, because I can see him making the EPL grade, though after next season he might be staying up without West Brom. [PAUL]

#7: HAL ROBSON-KANU (up twelve from #19 last time) – I thought this dude was younger, because he's Welsh, and I played a thousand matches with him in Football Manager. But he's 31, and a winger for fucking West Brom. Welsh winger for West Brom with a double-barreled surname. He did chunk in 10 goals last season, which was his most prolific season as a professional. He spent two seasons with West Brom previously in their last Premier League stint, and got himself five goals over 50 appearances. I imagine they might be hoping for a little more, but then again fuck it, eat up minutes bro, keep it middling, and finish ahead of three other sad sacks. [RAVEN]

#8: MATT PHILLIPS (up one from #9 last time) – At the risk of trying to sound overly woke, or maybe fetishizing diversity in countries for which I have an affinity, I’m always stoked to see Black players repping any Celtic fringe nation, like Ireland, Scotland, or Wales—for whatever reason, either Scottish grandparents like Matt here, or maybe immigrant/refugee resettlement. Which I recognize might be hypocritical of me, considering my repeatedly documented stance on players with any variety of documented non-English ancestry choosing to represent England. But I suppose I just like when the subalterns of the world mix and match to take on the former imperial powers—like my Football Manager alter ego was an Irish-Argentinian former goalkeeper that in my head-narrative was the son of a 1970s PIRA operative that had to flee to the expat Irish-Gaelic community in Argentina. I had this fictional algorithmic dude primarily rep the Republic as an international, but fuck it, would’ve been chill if he’d done Argentina too. I am 45 years old and I think this shit. Sadly for Matt, repping Scotland is an exercise in doom, and he’s another of those national team players that don’t necessarily excite the supporters (insomuch as they can ever be excited) when he shows up on the team sheet. I think he mostly gets sub minutes behind James Forrest on that right wing, though I have some notion that one of the hapless Scottish managers tried using him as a striker at some point. Could be a false memory, I don’t know. But while obviously integral to the West Brom promotion campaign, Matt doesn’t seem to have that start-every-game, get-the-full-90-minutes security of a foundation player, at least moving forward. Like so many in this West Brom squad, I don’t see good things happening for them in this EPL run. Plus Pereira is supposed to be that natural right winger and if the Baggies are going to have even a sliver of hope, I strongly suspect he’ll fully supplant Phillips. [PAUL]

#9: CONOR TOWNSEND – Yet another dude who has bounced around various levels of English football, this 5’6” dude is West Brom’s left back who tried to break through with Hull City back in the day before being loaned away year after year. He was Grimsby Town’s Young Player of the Year way back in 2011-12 so this is a dude who once showed a bit of potential before settling into his vagabond lot in life which makes this upcoming season a meaningful one from a Dream point of view. At 27 he is still young enough to make that a reality for a few seasons yet and even if it doesn’t last it’s still something to tell the grandkids about one day. You have to feel happy for dudes like that. Still, it’s hard to trust a dude named Conor when it comes to Psychic Energy and Spirit Warrior points of view. I mean, unless it’s a dude named Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, but even that dude has two N’s in his name instead of just the one, and since N is the Holiest of letters in the Spirit Warrior world, that’s an important distinction. So not only is he a dude named Conor, he was stripped of his second N at birth so he must be unworthy somehow. Listen, I don’t make the rules. [NEIL]

#10: AHMED HEGAZI (down four from #6 last time) – I'm a fan of Egyptian footballers, but more specifically defenders like Hegazi. Sure, Mo Salah gets all the glory (and deservedly so), but Egyptian football is fucking hard. The stereotype of Italian football is violently defensive, but Egypt (and much North African football) is like five times that. On top of this, probably the most heated rivalry on Earth, even more so than the Old Firm in Glasgow, is Al Ahly and Zamalek in Cairo. Zamalek was traditionally the club of the ruling class, and Al Ahly the club of the working class, and Al Ahly supporters were key to the overthrow of Morsi during Egypt's week in the Arab Spring. Hegazi came to England from Al Ahly, though he did have a few years contracted to Fiorentina in Italy before that. (See? That defensive metaphysics is real.) This was in 2015, so well after the first revolution in Egypt. He came to West Brom to help aid them in staying in the Premier League, only for them to get relegated. He's remained with the club, but there's currently talk of him transferring back to Al Ahly, who are about to jump into the final four of the African version of the Champions League, in a few weeks, with their rivals Zamalek, and the top two clubs from Casablanca. I'm as excited about the return of African Champions League as I am anything else, and a Zamalek/Al Ahly finale would be fitting, because they might have a riot and suspended match even in an empty stadium. [RAVEN]

#11: FILIP KROPINOVIC – I have been getting increasingly higher while writing these blurbs as you can probably tell by my Connor MacLeod digression, so I’ll try to get through these before getting too fucked up. I am a Professional on a deadline after all. Anyway, Krovonovic here is a Croatian midfielder who spent his formative years in the Croatian leagues with NK Zagreb before heading off to Portugal with Rio Ave before making the leap to Benfica, where he hasn’t quite cut it but it’s at least a shot at the big time, at least as much as Portuguese football is concerned. He did some work for West Brom this past season, but it was part of a one year loan. Still, West Brom has made it known they want him back so I imagine his time with Benfica might be at an end and life in England might be just getting kicked off. That is a nice journey for a Croatian footballer but to be honest he’d probably be Spiritually more whole if he kicked it in Croatia full time but then we’re back to my Paternalism discussion from the Semi Ajayi blurb. These are not easy questions to deal with for a dumbass white dude like myself even if I don’t like to think of my heart and certainly not my Soul as white. Still, a Croatian dude brings positive Psychic Energies with him, especially to a stupid English club, which is a good and necessary thing for a club trying to make the jump to the Premier League. Can he make it as a real player at that level? Fuck if I know. He was never really able to make it with Benfica of the Portuguese version of the Premier League but Benfica is honestly probably a tougher club to crack than West Brom. He showed obvious promise with NK Zagreb, helping them make the jump from the Croatian Second League to their version of the Premier League so this is a dude who has at least been here before. From Croatia to Portugal to England, he is a dude who has gone from the Perpetually Fucked from an international point of view to countries with a long history of being shitty imperialists so his Croatian heart and soul are always under psychic duress here, but again we are wading into my own prejudices so let’s just get the fuck out of here and wish him all the best. [NEIL]

#12: DARNELL FURLONG – Furlong’s a defender who had previously spent his professional time entirely owned by Queens Park, making his senior debut at the age of 19 when they were in the Premier League still. He had three appearances that first season, in 2014-15, in the actual Premier League, which must’ve been a huge high for the young man. The past six seasons saw him mired with the club in the Championship, and spending a full season loaned down to League Two at Northampton Town and Cambridge United, and then he a year in League One with Swindon Town. West Brom made a move for Furlong last summer, and he was a constant presence for the club, and key in helping them get back to the Premier League. More importantly, after two whole matches and a half in substitution back in the spring of 2015, Furlong has earned his way into testing himself at that level once again. [RAVEN]

#13: DARA O’SHEA – Dara is a very promising young Irish central defender who seems to have come on strong during West Brom’s promotion run-in. Dude played Gaelic sports as a kid before making the Sassenach-ball transition, which I wonder is still seen as a betrayal of sorts by hardline Irish nationalists. As I understand it, Gaelic sporting associations played a key role in organizing Irish resistance to British imperial rule, with a centrality of sorts to Gaelic Irish identity as postulated in opposition to British-ness. So I suspect that in these contemporary times there are Republic of Ireland kids who are herded into playing Gaelic sports as a conservative-angled national mandate. As in, are their Irish kids groaning like fuck that their parents insist they play GAA stuff in school, when that sexy-ass English football/soccer they’ve been watching on television and following their whole young lives isn’t always there, calling to them. Like I imagine there’s any number of angry 14 year-old Irish kids who’ve at one time or another railed at their parents on the way to hurling practice “Ma, nae fecker cares about that old shite anymair!” [this might be Glaswegian more than Irish eye dialect, so please excuse me, because as always I am a stupid American] and longed to be playing attacking mid for Celtic or Liverpool. I suppose I get a laugh out of trying to make the American analogy to a recreation or school sport that parents force on their kids, and to be honest, tragically I think it might be soccer/football, but I don’t know, maybe baseball or softball. Stupid Americans, we don’t even really have a national sport that we can consistently torment our children with (do some Canadian kids hate hockey, or curling?) I hope Dara here [got the cartoon character Daria on the brain, because I was earlier today expressing my persistent love for Beavis and Butthead, and thinking about how I found Daria kinda hot, for a cartoon character, and now realizing even further that my wife of 15 years do look like her made flesh and I’ll need to sit with that for awhile now] goes from strength to strength and becomes a Republic of Ireland mainstay (I want them boys back in the World Cup so bad). [PAUL]

#14: KIERAN GIBBS (down three from #11 last time) – You'd normally assume a dude named Kieran is of Irish descent, but young Mr. Gibbs is actually Bajan, with is Barbadian Creole. I mean, a Caribbean Creole motherfucker feels like a good psychic fit for left back, although he was born in London, that's still his heritage. Eugenics and racialists fucked up real science with their bullshit, so it's impossible to ask questions like "if you're from a fucked up place, how many generations does that motivate you at a cellular level you don't necessarily comprehend at a conscious level?" Kieran has a twin brother named Jayden who had played football for a while but is mostly known in the tabloids for having dated a Love Island contestant last year. I think my kids were watching that shit one time, looked like complete trash. But like I got room to talk… I wasted most of my youth watching pro wrestling. [RAVEN]

#15: GRADY DIANGANA (previously ranked #22 for West Ham on 01-Feb-2020) – A Congolese forward, Diangana is actually an interesting inverse of the dudes I’ve been talking about in the whole Is Neil Being Paternalistic running discussion here. That’s because he has chosen to rep England instead of the Congo even though he was born there. That, obviously, is a personal choice but one that always leaves me feeling a little suspect of these dudes when they make that reverse choice. Still, it’s his right to do so and if identifying as English means that much to him, then so be it. As for his prowess on the pitch, he has established himself as one of West Brom’s most important players, adding six assists to his eight goals this past season and winning three Man of the Match awards along the way. He’s still pretty young , barely 22, and has a pretty bright future by all accounts. Unlike most of these vagabonds, and I use that term with the utmost admiration and respect, he has had relatively few travels in his career, coming up with West Ham before being loaned to West Brom. I imagine West Brom has an eye towards making that permanent and for all I know they already have. It’s an illustration that he is a relatively Shiny Thing for a squad used to buying Used, but I still question him from a Psychic Energy point of view because of my own views on the whole Who Does He Represent issue. There is magic in a young, talented forward who reps the fucking Congo. Not so much a dude who reps England. But again, we are into the whole Paternalism discussion, which is something I want to be careful of, both now and in the future. But fuck it, I feel comfortable still in saying picking England is never a good thing. Especially over a magical place like the Congo where he could be a dude who could make a real difference, both on the pitch and as a Young Dude in the Community and Hero to Tha Kids. But he’s made his choice so fuck it, opportunity missed, I guess. [NEIL]

#16: CHARLIE AUSTIN (previously ranked #24 for Southampton on 15-Mar-2020) – Austin's a 31-year-old English striker, and just about the perfect example of too good for Championship, not quite good enough for Premier League. He did bring home 18 goals for Queens Park in the PL one season, and nickel and dimed another 16 for Southampton over the course of four more. But he's averaged like 16 goals a season in the Championship when he's played full seasons. He chipped in 10 this past one for West Brom, even with less minutes as he's getting older. He was a solid sub who brought pace to the club in late minutes. Hard to imagine he'll maintain that role moving forward though, as they'll likely get a guy or two, right? Surely he ends up scoring 10 goals for like Nottingham Forest instead, right? Nothing feels more perfect than Charlie Austin at Nottingham Forest. It feels like that shit must've already occurred like five times since 1891. [RAVEN]

#17: NATHAN FERGUSON – Tender-aged center back who was coming on strong for West Brom with regular starts before getting frozen out likely for rejecting a new contract. Crystal Palace bought him, which was probably a wise move given they are far more likely to stay up than West Brom. Apparently, this move caused Bilic to go all apoplectic about youth development players getting poached, and to be honest I’m not going to muster much sympathy there, because it’s West Brom and yung dude is heading to London and he don’t owe no one shit. [PAUL]

#18: REKEEM HARPER – Harper’s a promising young midfielder who actually was clamoring for a loan the second half of last season, because he wasn’t getting time in Slaven Bilic’s line-up sheets. Bilic refused to move him, and Harper started getting more time as the season ran its marathon finish post-pandemic shutdown. Harper’s only 20, and if he was barely ready for the Championship the past year, he’s likely not ready for the Premier League at all. It’s a hard decision whether a young talent will step up to the challenge and learn from heavier competition at the top level, or if you should keep the gloves on and ship him down a tier and let him thrive and build the ego’s outer shell before getting tossed and turned by the world’s top talent goes at them in the Premier League. And then there is the issue of do you send a promising talent to go get more minutes a level below? Or do you keep him for cover because even young like he is, he’s probably just as good as anybody you bring in on transfer? These are the hard questions that have to be answered by Slaven Bilic, whom I do not trust to answer them well. But this is how clubs get mired in the condition of up-and-down swings between tiers. [RAVEN]

#19: JAY RODRIGUEZ (previously ranked #17 for Burnley on 15-Feb-2020) – Veteran forward who’s no longer with the club, which you really can’t blame him for since he is a Premier League vet and not a dude who really belongs in the Championship. A not insignificant goal scorer, he once scored 15 in a season with Southampton and put in 22 in his one Championship level season with West Brom. He then made the move to Burnley, which isn’t exactly an upward move, but fuck it, it’s still Premier League football. His dad Kiko also played football back in the day, but was more of a semi-pro type, and although Jay is of Spanish descent, it is multigenerational so I can hardly fault him for playing for English national teams. Or maybe I can. Fuck it, who is even to say anymore? I have myself all twisted on the subject, again not wanting to be Paternalistic. In any event, he is no longer with West Brom, so why am I even talking about this dude? Because that’s how sketchy things seem to be from a Psychic Energies point of view for West Brom, which is perhaps appropriate for a squad which is always riding the line between Premier League also-ran and Championship contender. It’s a tough world out there, relatively speaking. I mean, none of these dudes are exactly living the Rough Life, but you know what I’m saying. Jay Rodriguez has already lived a pretty charmed life, and at 31 is probably nearing the end of his useful days as a footballer, but he still seems to be an important piece for Burnley so who is to really say? But like I said, it doesn’t really do much for West Brom, so as I have so often said, fuck it, my dudes and lady dudes. Fuck it. [NEIL]

#20: CRAIG DAWSON (down eighteen from #2 last time, and in fact ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR for this club back in 2017; also previously ranked #18 for Watford on 01-Jan-2020) – Dawson was a long-time Magpie, but made the move to Watford last summer, only to see that ship sink like Elton John's sexual appetite in his 60s. I don't know that to be true, and if a guy can afford that many flowers, as Elton is known for, then he probably can afford good performance enhancement drugs. Although then again if you live a sexy enough lifestyle full of bright outfits surrounded by high dollar floral arrangements, how would your dick not stay hard as a man? Thank you. This has been your Craig Dawson blurb. [RAVEN]

#21: KYLE EDWARDS – Young left-side winger, whom finally started getting more time this past season - only his third as a senior, all with West Brom, where he joined their youth academy at the age of 6. He’s homegrown, and Baggie supporters took to him last season as well, as he’s an exciting player, despite only adding 2 goals in 29 appearances. Only 22, and with less than three dozen appearances at the Championship level, Edwards might not be seasoned enough for the Premier League, and Slaven Bilic’s historic desire to stockpile Premier League clubs with well-known cast-offs will likely come into play before it all kicks off in a few weeks. [RAVEN]

#22: CHRIS BRUNT (down fourteen from #8 last time) – Fuck this dude. Old-ass West Brom central midfield mainstay for over a decade, to be put out to pasture with Stoke maybe. Didn’t really play much at all this season. Context clues suggest he’s an Orange Bastard (Belfast-born, Rangers trial, father a rugby player). I suppose he’s a modern-era Baggies legend, and I can respect that, but man I ain’t getting excited about much of anything having to do with West Brom. Fast-as-fuck, no-first-touch-having, can’t-shoot-for-shit Oliver Burke is still there under contract and I see a rumor linking him to a Celtic “return” after his previous loan from the Baggies and really that’s about the only reason I’m paying any attention to them, besides writing this up. Leeds is the only promoted club that will (maybe) make any noise in the EPL and both West Brom and Fulham are doomed. Brunt here probably pulls one last season in the Championship (of fuck it, maybe Rangers want some “experience” in their engine room) then takes over as manager after Bilic gets fired, or maybe Northern Ireland in some capacity. [PAUL]

#23: CALLUM ROBINSON (previously ranked #16 for Sheffield United on 15-Apr-2020) – Robinson’s a left winger who spent the 2020 part of the Championship season on loan to West Brom from Sheffield United, even after 17 appearances in the first half of the Premier League season for the Blades. More importantly, he’s a Black Irishman, in the tradition of Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. There’s not a more potentially explosive mix of heritages than African and Irish. If there were an island somewhere on this Earth of Black Irish, that’d be where I’d wanna retire. You have to be careful typing shit like “Black Irish” into the internet though, because racialists with their fucked up false histories of western civilization show up, and next thing you know, you’ve got people with FREE SPEECH ABSOLUTIST, 100% LOGIC DRIVEN as their Twitter bio in your notifications, dropping unclever memes. [RAVEN]

#24: DWIGHT GAYLE (previously ranked #24 for Newcastle United on 01-Nov-2019) – Dwight Gayle has not taken a penalty since August of 2016. Those eyes worked wonders on GK's, causing them to question the validity of their own sexuality. For a number of seasons as he climbed the English pyramid, Gayle staked himself as a key penalty performer for Crystal Palace. He even got two in one match in the League Cup against Charlton Athletic, back in 2015. It all came apart with a move to Newcastle United. Those blue and red stripes of the Palace kit perfectly accentuated his subtle and seductive eyes. The black and white stripes of Newcastle weren't the same, and as he lined up take his first penalty for the club, against Danny Ward and Huddersfield Town in August of 2016, that siren song-esque stare no longer had the same magic, and he thudded a spiritually weak attempt to Ward's right, who flopped over and deflected it into the air. Gayle was able to recover his bearings in the moment, and head it home for a goal, despite the missed penalty. But any good manager would see the truth inside that moment, and the slight lack of luster in Gayle's eyes afterwards. There's no spreadsheet that can calculate such stuff, but suffice it to say Dwight Gayle has never been tasked with a penalty, ever since. Newcastle also saw him as extra cover, so sent him off to West Brom last season on loan. About to turn 31, the thrill is gone, and Gayle rides out his career with either minimal minutes at his current club, or swallows his ego further, and accepts the declining fates of those whose windows have begun to close. The effects of Crystal Palace's kit in his success cannot be underestimated, and the colonial nature of most English club kits contributes to lower scoring. [RAVEN]

#25: MASON HOLGATE – Mason Holgate might be a decent dude (although he's trapped at Everton, so that's highly unlikely), but his name sounds like he's a super white power forward for Duke University basketball, so that makes me hate him. Sad thing is he's not even white. As an American, there's subtle cultural differences from across the Atlantic, that make me sometimes wonder how the fuck a non-white dude got named Mason Holgate? [RAVEN] 

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