Curtis Davies did not join West Bromwich Albion to play in the Coca-Cola Championship. And nor did Steve Watson.

But if Albion do not win their final three matches of the season, chances are high that these two fine defenders, at opposite ends of their careers, will say goodbye to the Premiership for one year at least.

The problem for Albion would not just be a loss of status and a loss of funds; it would become a struggle keeping hold of young players such as Davies and Nathan Ellington.

With Arsenal linked with a move for Davies, Watson knows that relegation would put Albion in an awkward situation. Albion play Newcastle United away tomorrow, West Ham United at home next week, and Everton away on May 7. Anything short of nine points is not an option.

Whatever happens, Davies will remain a target for richer clubs.

The young centre-back, still only 20, has been inspirational since his arrival, for #3 million last August, from Luton Town. He seems set to win England international caps over the next two years.

Watson, the experienced Albion right-back, has witnessed Davies' emergence at close quarters and would lament it if the young player left The Hawthorns.

"I've played a few games alongside Curtis now and he is mature beyond his years," Watson said. "He is a very good talker, a good leader and he has had the captain's armband a few times which shows what the gaffer thinks of him as well.

"I've heard Curtis linked with Arsenal a few times and it is complimentary for him. He did himself no harm when it comes to Arsenal because he was outstanding against them on Saturday at Highbury.

"Is it a worry Albion might lose some of their young players? I think that's a worry in general. It's very difficult for any young kid if someone of Arsenal or Manchester United's stature comes and dangles the chance of playing for them in front of you.

"With not just Curtis, but any young player, it is going to be a test to keep hold of them. It would be terrible news to lose him.

"No one is thinking that far ahead but I'm 100 per cent sure Curtis has enjoyed his first season here but, like everyone else, would want to have a second season in the Premiership."

Albion's problem is that, while the defenders have performed well for the most part, there is a lack of goals. Injuries have not helped the cause of Bryan Robson - rarely has a striker enjoyed a regular run in the team - but missed chances have been the real problem.

This Albion team is stronger and more attractive than the one that avoided relegation a year ago, but good performances have been produced good results. Albion have only picked up two points from their past ten matches and, for all their fine play, cannot argue with the state of the Premiership table.

Albion occupy 19th position, three points behind Birmingham City and Portsmouth, and find that the matter is out of their hands. They could even win their final three matches and still endure relegation.

Little wonder the atmosphere around The Hawthorns during the match against Bolton Wanderers last Tuesday was muted.

Long term, if Albion are relegated, Watson says that the experience could help the likes of Davies and Ellington.

"Whatever happens, this will be an experience for him [Davies] which will stand him in good stead - and the same with Nathan," Watson said. "Nathan has been promoted with a team [Wigan Athletic] and he wasn't expecting to be in this situation the next season. None of us want it but we've got to deal with it and get the right results."

Ellington has recovered from a foot injury and is included in the squad to face Newcastle at St James' Park. Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, seems set to restore the striker to the starting line-up.

"Nathan came up to me on Wednesday after training and said he felt a lot better," Robson said. "He's available for Saturday and it will be good to have him back. With the way things have been going lately, we have been performing well but missing chances.

"He is our best goalscorer and, hopefully, he'll make a big contribution in the last few games."