Hodgson wins bragging rights but faces battle to keep players

West Bromwich Albion 1 Everton 0

When west Bromwich Albion last finished as the West Midlands' highest-placed club, Margaret Thatcher was new at No 10, Art Garfunkel had 'Bright Eyes' at No 1 and a young rookie manager from Croydon had just guided Halmstad to the Swedish title.

Roy Hodgson, now 63, has put Albion in pole position to finish as "top dogs", in his phrase, in Birmingham and the Black Country for the first time since 1979. Their surge since he succeeded Roberto Di Matteo could see them accrue nearly 50 per cent more points than in the Great Escape of 2005.

Putting down roots in the Premier League will mean resisting offers for the trio involved in the goal – top scorer Peter Odemwingie, captain Chris Brunt and marksman Youssouf Mulumbu – that beat an Everton side who played the last 14 minutes with 10 men after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's dismissal. "I don't need assurances that we'll keep our players," said Hodgson. "I know from my experience of trying to get Jonathan Greening to Fulham that the chairman [Jeremy Peace] is keen on keeping the players he wants and who are under contract."

While the squad will not undergo major surgery, he said it would be foolish to rest on their laurels. "The players here will say: 'We got you 46 points, possibly more, and stayed in the league. In a difficult season we've proved to you the nucleus is good enough.' But you need to improve. The moment you contemplate standing still, you go backwards."

Hodgson will look to unearth more talents like Odemwingie and Mulumbu, both spotted by Albion's sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth. Yet all their rivals now had scouts who were "like Leslie Welch" (aka the Memory Man). As a result there were "fewer and fewer bargains out there".



Scorers: West Bromwich Mulumbu 10

Substitutes: West Bromwich Morrison (Cox, 67), Tchoyi (Thomas, 78), Fortune (Brunt, 90). Everton Beckford (Coleman, 62), Bilyaletdinov (Neville, 72), Rodwell (Anichebe, 80). Booked: West Bromwich Tamas, Thomas. Everton Heitinga, Neville. Sent off Bilyaletdinov (77). Man of the match Mulumbu. Match rating 6/10.

Attempts on target: West Brom 9 Everton 10.

Referee A Taylor(Cheshire). Att 25,838.

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