A top-half finish for the first time in the Premier League era remains the objective for 10th-placed West Bromwich Albion, yet having already accounted for two opposing managers this season, there is one statistic that Roy Hodgson, the head coach, is eager to avoid.
Neighbours Aston Villa arrive this afternoon and for once it is they, rather than the Baggies, who find themselves in a nerve-shredding fight for survival.
Victories for Albion earlier this season over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea were swiftly followed by the respective sackings of Mick McCarthy and Andre Villas-Boas. Hodgson, however, hopes the same fate does not befall Alex McLeish, the beleaguered Villa manager, should his team inflict a defeat that would plunge them deeper into troubled waters.
"I don't ever accept true responsibility for managers losing their job," Hodgson said. "There will come a moment when someone's tenure ends. It's a tough time, but the reason the Premier League is what it is, is because of this incredible excitement. You see an awful lot of matches where the knife is really at the throats of the management because something important is riding on the game.
"I think Alex has done a good job at Aston Villa, it's been a difficult year for him. But I'm sure it'll be much better next year – and I'm also sure that won't help us a great deal."
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