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Saints give Baggies blueprint for success
AS West Brom’s caretaker-manager ended his brief spell in charge, there were shades of Steve Wigley’s ill-fated stint as Saints boss – and a reminder of how far the club has come since then.
Keith Downing cast an uncanny resemblance to Wigley as he patrolled West Brom’s technical area while his sixth and final game as interim manager ended in defeat to Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
Like Wigley a decade ago and Stuart Gray a few years earlier, Downing was promoted from No 2, albeit temporarly, while West Brom sought their long-term replacement for Steve Clarke.
As Saints did a year ago next week, they have taken the Spanish option. Pepe Mel is the new incumbent at the Hawthorns and oversaw this contest from the stands.
He will not have been surprised at the progress made by Saints in the last year, having been in the opposite dug out on a few occasions when his Real Betis side took on Pochettino’s Espanyol in La Liga.
This latest meeting was not high on entertainment, particularly during a dire first half.
But Pochettino’s side showed how much they have progressed since his reign began with a goalless draw against Everton 12 months ago.
It would be wrong to say Saints ever gain any ‘ugly wins’ now that they are playing such fluent, pleasing-on-the-eye football.
But it is fair to say they clinched the three points against West Brom despite a performance that was well short of their sparkling best.
Downing will no doubt return to his place in the West Brom boot room but it was not a bad day for all former No 2s.
At least Stuart Gray, Saints erstwhile assistant, enjoyed a thumping win of his own, with Sheffield Wednesday.
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