Di Matteo keeps his head after West Bromwich soar to new high

West Bromwich Albion 2 Fulham 1

Much could go wrong for West Bromwich Albion between now and next May but, as an appreciative audience – the biggest in almost two years – streamed away from the Hawthorns on Saturday, chairman Jeremy Peace may have allowed himself at least a brief moment of self-congratulation.

It would stem from the recollection that his decision to appoint Roberto di Matteo as manager 15 months ago was a gamble, even by his own admission.

Despite the temptation to play safe after three relegations in seven yoyo seasons, Peace rejected the credentials of Preston's Alan Irvine and convinced his directors that the Swiss-Italian's lack of experience should not count against him.

So far, he seems justified in having done so. West Brom, promoted again from the Championship after Di Matteo's first season, climbed to fourth place in the top flight as a result of Saturday's victory, their highest position in 28 years since seven wins from the first 11 matches of the 1982-83 season lifted them to second. Moreover, his gross transfer outlay is less than £10m.

Di Matteo is already too wise to indulge in fantasy and will not speculate on whether Albion's good start is sustainable. "How long can we keep the run going? I've absolutely no idea," he said.

But he is helping Peace bolster the proposition that a club of limited resources need not see crude pragmatism as the only route to survival in the Premier League. Rejecting such an approach failed under Tony Mowbray but Di Matteo's side still tries to play football that is pleasing to the eye – with a measure of resilience to go with it.

What will have pleased the manager most on Saturday was that while his side's willingness to attack, which is central to his philosophy, created eight or nine chances, they made so few mistakes that Fulham barely had one.

Going forward, they had pace and energy, exemplified in particular by the box-to-box play of Youssouf Mulumbu and Jerome Thomas's working of the left flank. At the back, meanwhile, Gabriel Tamas and Jonas Olsson, were proficient in the air and on the ground. There was always good cover, too, from Mulumbu, James Morrison and Paul Scharner.

It was Chris Brunt who caught the eye most, however. The Northern Ireland international has always had a potent left foot but has added something else under Di Matteo. "He has matured a lot and become a tremendous asset. Every week he gives you eight out of 10," the manager said.

After a shot from Zoltan Gera, a former Hawthorns favourite, had freakishly given Fulham the lead after bouncing off a post and in off Scott Carson's body, Brunt was central to both Albion's comeback goals, supplying the pass from which Mulumbu equalised and releasing Thomas to make the cut-back from which Marc-Antoine Fortune put them in front.

Fulham manager Mark Hughes, adding to the debate over "active" and "inactive" players in offside positions, suggested neither goal should have counted but did not appear to begrudge his former Chelsea team-mate the victory, even though it extended Fulham's dismal away form to 23 games without a win. "Roberto is a good guy with a lot of ideas and seems to be doing an excellent job here," Hughes said.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced