Premier League: West Brom are this season's surprise package
The Baggies are enjoying their best-ever Premier League season
West Bromwich Albion are not a glamourous team.
They are managed by plain-faced Steve Clarke, play Shane Long up front and give regular starts to perhaps the Premier League's most ugly footballer, Chris Brunt.
Compare this to fellow mid-tablers Swansea City. They have the sophisticated and suave Michael Laudrup drilling free-flowing football philosophy into the squad, with silverware to show for it.
They have this season's most exciting import Michu banging in the goals and the ever-handsome Chico Flores shoring things up at the back.
Despite all the attention and plaudits thrown at the Swans this season, the Baggies find themselves higher up the table.
They have six points on Swansea and the two teams have an almost identical final four fixtures to play.
Both will play Wigan Athletic, Manchester United and Manchester City before the curtain closes on the 2012/13 season.
For me, West Brom are the Premier League team who have succeeded all expectations this season.
West Brom are a club associated with 'Yo-Yo'ing between the first and second tiers of English football. They are rarely a consistent Premier League presence.
But this season they have been more than simply a presence. They have been a force.
Things started well, with an utterly convincing 3-0 victory over Liverpool and a hard earned 1-1 draw with Tottenham. They have done the double over Brendan Rodgers's men as well as European champions Chelsea.
I can't think of one game where they have given a bad account of themselves. While they don't go about their business in the same eye-catching style as Swansea, they have deserved every one of their 48 points so far.
Clarke deserves immense credit in his first full season in management.
Clearly the years spent working in the shadows at 'bigger clubs' were worthwhile.
He should also be given praise for his handling of the Peter Odemwingie situation - something which threatened to de-rail his team's season completely has been nullified into a side story.
Another interesting, but ultimately sad side story is that of Romelu Lukaku.
Both the player and the club will feel they have gotten more than fair value out of his loan move.
Lukaku has weighed in with 14 Premier League goals and is adored on the terrace. You get the sense it is with a heavy heart he will go back to Chelsea, but it is a duty a player of his quality deserves.
I can definitely see Lukaku getting plenty of game-time next season.
What West Brom do when they replace him is all important.
We have seen at Newcastle how one excellent season counts for nothing come the start of a new one.
Clarke has a big job ahead over the summer. Thankfully he can go about his work in the West Brom way: under the radar, and better off for it.
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