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By sacking Alan Pardew this week, West Bromwich Albion seem to have begun preparing themselves for life outside the Premier League. Few could blame them for parting ways with the former Newcastle United and West Ham United boss, the fact he managed just one win in his 18 games in charge at The Hawthorns undoubtedly reason enough for ending his short-lived reign at the helm.
The team were booed off at half-time of their previous home game against Burnley, having last recorded a victory in front of their own fans on January 13 against Brighton and Hove Albion. Pardew claimed just eight league points in total, and his spell was notable not only for those woeful results but also for a squad trip to Barcelona during which four players were alleged to have stolen a taxi.
Add in the fact they now sit ten points adrift from safety, and it seems almost certain that the Baggies will spend the 2018/19 campaign in the second tier, but one of the manager’s former team-mates believes his tenure there has been so bad that he will struggle to find another job in the near future.
“Which chairman's going to give him a job to keep them in the Premier League?” Ian Wright – who played with Pardew at Crystal Palace – told BBC Radio 5 Live. “Even if he went into the Championship, which chairman is going to say I want Alan to come in and keep us in here? He's a friend and it's sad to see the way it's gone but I don't see a route for him now.”
Few at West Brom will have any sympathy for the 56-year-old, instead being far more concerned with their own team’s current predicament. Darren Moore, who made more than 100 appearances for the club between 2001 and 2006 before coaching West Brom’s under-23 side, has been promoted from his role as first-team coach under Pardew.
What’s The Problem?
He will take charge until the end of the season, and he has some serious issues to tackle. Perhaps first and foremost among them is to discover the reasons behind the behaviour of his experienced players. That of course stems from the aforementioned incident in Barcelona where Gareth Barry, Jonny Evans, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore, were interviewed but not arrested by police after a taxi was stolen from outside a fast-food restaurant in the Spanish city.
“There's an argument that some players should be sacked as well,” Chris Sutton commented earlier this week. “Pardew's gone in there with a bunch of pirates and they look like they have plotted to get him to walk the plank. The senior players have been a disgrace.”
Moore must strive to find out if the act was, particularly for Barry and Evans, merely a way of lashing out at Pardew or if it was something else. Chris Brunt and Claudio Yacob reportedly criticised his tactics in “heated scenes” after the Huddersfield Town loss on February 24, while his attitude toward youngsters Sam Field and Oliver Burke angered the rest of the squad.
It would seem the group never engaged properly with the recently fired Pardew, but Moore will need to make sure before he entrusts those same veteran players over the last few months of the campaign.
Who Has A Future?
Chief executive Mark Jenkins used Saturday's programme notes to insist major changes to the structure of the club will be undertaken in the summer, while a massive overhaul of under-performing players is also expected. It will therefore likely fall to Moore to discover which players should be moved on and which should be kept at all costs as they strive to restore some pride to the club.
They have struggled for goals all season, and perhaps Jay Rodriguez is the man most likely to come under scrutiny. He offers plenty with his movement and enjoyed a superb spell in late December through to January, weighing in with five goals and an assist in a six-match burst that included strikes against Arsenal, Everton and a brace against Liverpool.
A return of 21 goals in 42 league starts for Southampton would suggest he could prosper in the right circumstances, and he certainly deserves a chance to prove himself in the coming weeks.
Is There A Plan?
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Jenkins’ words was his instance there will be a change in structure, which hopefully indicates West Brom intend to install a long-term vision rather than simply trying to survive as they have in recent years.
Indeed, former fan-favourite Paul Scharner laid the blame for their demise not with Pardew, but with the man he replaced back in November. “The main problem is that, in nearly three years, Tony Pulis built them his way, his Pulis structure, and it’s then difficult to unpick that way of working,” the Austrian international told The Sun. “Whoever went in there was going to find it tough. It needed a magician. Was it necessary to give so much power to the manager?
“The board allowed Pulis to destroy the club’s DNA,” Scharner continued. “Do you remember the football West Brom played before he came? It was about keeping the ball, possession football. That was their DNA. It didn’t matter whether the club went up and down, that was how they played. Now it’s difficult because there is no playing philosophy left and there are virtually no players left who identify with the club’s philosophy. I loved my time at The Hawthorns and playing for their wonderful fans but football is about winning, not surviving.”
Like Scharner, Moore will certainly remember those pre-Pulis days at the Hawthorns, and he will need to discover whether this promise of a bright new era means a return to those days or merely more of the same.