West Bromwich Albion were always going to be there or thereabouts in the chase for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship last season.
Following their relegation from the top flight at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, former Barnsley defender and Baggies legend Darren Moore was given the managerial hotseat on a permanent basis having picked up 11 points from his six games in caretaker charge.
The loan market was utilised, with Harvey Barnes, who spent the first half of the previous season at Oakwell, brought in alongside Tosin Adarabioyo and Dwight Gayle, while Kyle Bartley and Sam Johnstone arrived at the Hawthorns on permanent deals.
There was also movement away from the club; Jonny Evans departed after three years to join Leicester City, and Gareth McCauley, Claudio Yacob, James McClean, Nacer Chadli and Ben Foster left in the summer window. Salomón Rondón also signed for Newcastle United on loan as part of the deal that saw Gayle arrive in the Midlands.
It wasn’t an ideal start to life back in the Championship for the first time since 2010, as Bolton Wanderers snatched all three points at the Hawthorns courtesy of Yanic Wildschut’s late winner.
The goals soon started to flow for West Brom, though, who would go on to end the campaign as the division’s second top scorers. Their tally of 87 was aided with a 4-3 victory at eventual champions Norwich City and a 7-1 thrashing of Queens Park Rangers in successive games.
Bristol City, Millwall, Preston North End and Reading were all put to the sword in convincing style as the Baggies put themselves firmly in contention to claim promotion and make an immediate return to the Premier League.
A run of four games without a win – including a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Derby County – prompted a reaction, and it duly came when Leeds United came to town on Remembrance Weekend.
The league leaders succumbed to a comprehensive defeat as West Brom ran riot at the Hawthorns, with Hal Robson-Kanu, Matt Phillips, Barnes and Gayle all on target in a resounding 4-1 victory to lift Moore’s side from seventh to fifth.
That sparked a run of nine games unbeaten, although in that sequence were three home draws against Brentford, Aston Villa – albeit, somewhat controversially – and Sheffield Wednesday, as Moore’s side ended 2018 in third place, two points behind Norwich in second.
They were finely poised and Jake Livermore’s dramatic late winner against QPR at Loftus Road kept them in touching distance of the summit in mid-February, but three games without a win later saw Moore relieved of his post following a 1-1 draw with lowly Ipswich Town.
James Shan was promoted from first team coach to caretaker manager and would lead the side until the end of the campaign as West Brom – now nine points off the automatic spots – looked to ready themselves for a seemingly inevitable play-off campaign.
The Baggies ended the season with six wins from their last 10, finishing fourth and setting up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with local rivals Aston Villa. A 2-1 defeat at Villa Park in the first leg was followed by a 1-0 victory at home but Shan’s side suffered penalty heartbreak, going down 4-3 in the shootout.
Experienced heads Gareth Barry, Wes Hoolahan, Tyrone Mears, James Morrison and Boaz Myhill have already departed the Hawthorns following the expiration of their contracts as preparations for the 2019/20 campaign begin.
Slaven Bilić has also been confirmed as new manager at the Hawthorns, having been out of work since February after leaving Saudi outfit Al-Ittihad. The Croatian has a wealth of experience under his belt, with stints at Besiktas in Turkey, Russian side Locomotiv Moscow, the Croatia national team and West Ham United.
In the last 10 meetings between the Reds and West Brom – the most recent of which was in May 2010 – both sides have each won four times. Barnsley claimed a 3-1 victory in September 2009, with Adam Hammill, Iain Hume and a Shelton Martis own goal enough for all three points at Oakwell.