After last season, West Bromwich Albion were almost destined for decline. Tony Pulis led them to a highly respectable tenth-place finish in the Premier League in 2016/17. Improving on that in an increasingly competitive league was always going to a huge ask, and ultimately it wasn’t possible.
A 4-0 loss at home to reigning champions Chelsea last weekend ensured four straight league defeats and upped the pressure on Pulis, who was sacked on Monday morning.
Club chairman John Williams stated: “We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing. We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony's contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Currently lingering just one point above the relegation zone, West Brom must now plan for short-term as well as the longer term future. Appointing a quality new head coach is the first priority, and here are five options they would be wise to consider.
Allardyce may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his results are indisputable. The former England national team boss has quickly been installed as one of the favourites for the job, news that will come as no surprise considering his style and past achievements.
Renowned for his work with Bolton Wanderers, who he took from Championship to European football, ‘Big Sam’ went on to steer the likes of Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Sunderland to Premier League survival. His ability to turnaround the fortunes of struggling teams will no doubt interest those in charge at West Brom.
What may also be of relevance is his suitability to the club’s existing group of players. With a host of solid centre-backs, nippy wingers and a brutish target man in Salomón Rondón at their disposal, the Baggies’ squad is already perfectly suited to Allardyce’s direct tactics, meaning safety could be secured without spending excessively in January.
Portuguese managers are in high demand these days, and it’s easy to see why. José Mourinho retains his cult status in England thanks to his achievements with Chelsea and Manchester United, while Marco Silva and Nuno Espirito Santo’s results with Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively have garnered deserved plaudits.
Fonseca could be the next top Portuguese coach to join a top English club. After he took charge at Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016 the Ukrainian side won the league and cup double, while they are currently on the verge of knocking Serie A leaders Napoli out of the Champions League.
The 44-year-old has been linked to the Premier League before, with Everton reportedly keeping tabs on him, and he has spoken out about his desire to make the move one day, telling the Daily Telegaph that: “All coaches want to go to England and I am one.”
If West Brom want something more than instant results, Fonseca may be a wise move. In appointing him, they would announce themselves as a club with serious top-half ambitions.
Recently relieved of his duties at Everton after a deeply disappointing start to the 2017/18 campaign, Koeman is one of the best available managers out there for most Premier League clubs, West Brom included.
The Dutchman has a good record in the English top flight so far. His work at Southampton went under the radar – many attributed the team’s performances at the time to a sound overarching plan, but results since Koeman left suggest he had more to do with the club’s success than was perhaps initially accepted.
He struggled after a summer of major change at Everton. Losing Romelu Lukaku, along with the signature of an abundance of creative midfielders, led to tactical issues the manager was not able to resolve within six months. However, his tactical pragmatism could make him just the man to revive West Brom.
Following Northern Ireland’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, there has been plenty of speculation surrounding O’Neill’s future. Having led the country to the second round of Euro 2016, their first major finals in three decades, he has earned a reputation as one of the finest international managers around. Now a move back into club football could be on the horizon.
There will be no shortage of takers. O’Neill’s work as Northern Ireland boss only furthered his image as someone able to maximise the talents of those available to him, an image that was first established when he led Shamrock Rovers to Europa League group stages in 2011/12.
His tactics are based primarily on resolute, organised defence and incisive counter-attacks, meaning his style would suit West Brom nicely. And he would only be helped in implementing those tactics by the presence of Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt, all key players within his Northern Ireland setup.
Paul Merson’s rant about Silva’s appointment at Hull City led to a long debate that hasn’t yet died down: Why do so few young British managers get Premier League jobs?
However, while some have attributed this to the influx of foreign coaching talent, the reality is that top-flight sides don’t want to take chances on managerial prospects unproven in the league.
It is for this reason that the likes of Potter are often overlooked in the conversations regarding vacancies such as West Brom’s, while the likes of Allardyce, new West Ham boss David Moyes and Alan Pardew often appear high on the managerial shortlist.
Potter is one of the most intriguing English managers around today, but he has never managed in England. He has spent the last six years in Sweden, where he has led Ostersunds from the second tier to the verge of the Europa League knockout stages.
Having played 47 times for West Brom in the 1990s, the 42-year-old quite literally knows the club. And, thanks to his ability to revive careers, implement effective and attractive football, and get results, he would be an excellent outside-of-the-box option.