West Bromwich Albion are making a solid, if unspectacular, start to life back in the Championship under Darren Moore. Indeed, after a miserable time of things in recent seasons, a fresh start under an almost universally popular manager looks to be helping stop the rot at the Hawthorns.
Few would doubt the fact that the Baggies boast one of the best forward lines in division, though the English second tier is a notoriously difficult division from which to escape, as the club have previously discovered. While the Midlands outfit may have a reputation as the archetypal ‘yo-yo’ club, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for them when it comes to getting promoted.
Back in 2007, Tony Mowbray’s West Brom side lost to Derby County in the Play-Off final. A late Stephen Pearson goal was enough to ensure a victory for the Rams in what is widely claimed to be the costliest game in football, with the financial reward for promotion to the Premier League quite frankly mind-boggling.
However, for the Baggies, it was worse than that. Here, in our One that got away series, we’ll look at why.
West Brom – Luka Modric 2007
As if missing out on a return to the Premier League wasn’t bad enough for the Baggies, its since come to light that the result almost directly cost them perhaps their greatest transfer coup of all time.
Indeed, as revealed by the Birmingham Mail earlier this summer, a move for a little-known Croatian midfielder in the shape of Luka Modric failed to come off as they remained in the Championship.
At the time, the technician was still with Dinamo Zagreb and, according to the Mail’s report, top brass at the Hawthorns had built up a good relationship with the Croatians. Jeremy Peace and Mark Jenkins are understood to have had ties in the country and Mowbray, unsurprisingly, thought to be a fan of the midfielder.
The deal was reportedly likely to be concluded if the Baggies had beaten Derby at Wembley, though the fact they would remain in the Championship for another season meant he remained at his boyhood club until Tottenham paid big money to sign him a year later.
Arguably one of the best players of the modern era, it seems one loss cost West Brom the chance to land him.