The new ‘Baggies’ manager is already under pressure. West Brom could exit the Premier League.
Another club run by people who think changing their manager in December is a good idea. How often has that planned worked out well? Very rarely.
West Brom grew impatient with Steve Clarke and copied the dreadful example set by Wolves a few seasons back. They pressed the panic button.
Wolves sacked Mick McCarthy at a crucial stage of the season. Since which time they have plummeted down the football league and only now could claw their way out of League 1.
West Brom are in danger of ‘doing a Wolves.’
I’ve seen quite a bit of Pepe Mel. I have watched him with the media in Spain and taken note of his press conferences and interviews. The former striker seems like a good guy and a coach who believes in playing football the right way.
But I was surprised when he was hired at West Brom.
Why is it that so many people running football clubs in England think that hiring a foreign coach is somehow automatically preferable than appointing a home grown manager?
I confess such reasoning is lost on me.
I understand why Mel took the job. The chance to manage in the Premier League will not come around too often. He had to take the job.
Mel is not a typical manager. He is a witty man. His players at Real Betis largely enjoyed working with him. Rumours abound that he has yet to win over the Albion squad.
And Mel is also a studious man. He has written two novels and plans his match strategy to the accompaniment of Mozart.
Real Betis fans loved Pepe Mel. He took Betis out of the second tier of Spanish football, into La Liga and beyond to the Europa League. Fans protested when he was removed from office.
With the Albion currently dicing with danger, Baggies fans have yet to be convinced he’s the right man for the job. And it’s possible his bosses think likewise.
Those who hired him at West Brom did not allow him to bring his regular coaching team with him. Big mistake.
That struck me as a vote of no confidence before West Brom had kicked a ball under his management. It’s tough enough living in a land where everything is alien to you. Doing it without an established support structure, without friends and trusted colleagues close by, makes life even tougher.
West Brom hired Pepe Mel one day, and then tied one hand behind his back the next.
Now reports coming out of The Hawthorns suggest he may last much less time than the 18 months on his contract. Surely West Brom will not sack another manager before the season is out? He’s only had six games in charge!
BBC Midlands correspondent Pat Murphy is not so sure. He writes: “Chairman Jeremy Peace would not balk at taking action if the club’s top-flight status had to be safeguarded.”
Is that like the action he took in sacking Clarke? A manager who was popular with the players. A manager they understood.
Three of the four clubs at the foot of the Premier League sacked their managers at a vital stage of the season. Cardiff City, Fulham and West Brom chopped and changed. Fulham did so twice (so far!).
Have the fortunes of any of those teams improved since? No.
West Ham looked set for relegation a few weeks ago. Did the dodgy characters who run that club sack Sam Allardyce? No. Where are West Ham at the time of writing? In 10th place, nine points off the last relegation place.
Now it’s likely West Ham decided they couldn’t afford to fire ‘Big Sam.’ I’m no fan of Allardyce but I was insistent that the Hammers stay loyal to the man. He knows what he is doing and he was always the best choice to keep West Ham in the Premier League. And so it proved.
Crystal Palace had to make a change when Ian Holloway quit. The Chairman at Palace took time he could not really afford to interview candidates other than the first choice, Tony Pulis. But he made the right choice in the end and I believe now, as I believed then, that the Eagles will stay up with Pulis at the helm.
Relegation is not a done deal. Any team up to 12th placed Swansea could still go down. Swansea another club that made a late change of manager.
But it’s looking most likely that clubs with fewer points currently are at greatest risk of the drop. Clubs that changed their manager when a few results went the wrong way, will be playing Championship football next season.
Patience may be a virtue, but it’s a stranger to many who run football clubs. And also a characteristic absent from many terraces.