The search for the next West Brom manager is under way as the Baggies eye up promotion next season.
Shan out but who’s in?
Close but not close enough. A penalty shoot-out loss against Midlands rivals Aston Villa in the semi-finals of the play-offs could easily have gone their way but didn’t.
It meant the end of the road for James Shan, who had taken over from Darren Moore in March 2019 on a caretaker basis.
So, who’s being lined up on the next West Brom manager and player fronts and what are their chances of going up next season?
Slaven Bilic is the heavy favourite to take over. Those in favour of his appointment will point to his experience of managing at the top level with the likes of Croatia and West Ham, his knowledge of the English game as player and manager, and his undoubted charisma. All well and good but to what extent will his exploits in charge of Croatia’s excellent Euro 2008 campaign help him when the Baggies are away at Stoke?
Is a man who managed Dimitri Payet a few seasons ago the right man to get the best out of Harvey Barnes and Jake Livermore? We’ll have to wait and see. The controversial Lee Bowyer is also being talked about; he had a fine debut season as manager of Charlton but still looks a bit raw to be in charge of one of the Championship favourites for promotion.
Current Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has been linked with the role as well, as has former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores. Slightly more bizarrely so has ex-Wolfsburg boss Bruno Labbadia; hard to see the logic there.
Surely Chris Hughton is the obvious man for the job. Few know the English game like him, especially at Championship level. He’s secured promotions to the Premier League with both Newcastle and Brighton and was arguably pretty unfortunate to be sacked at Brighton despite twice avoiding the drop. By the way, if it’s the top division of English football you like, the Premier League is covered in detail here.
Hughton, is of course available and his calm demeanour may just be what the club needs right now.
More Exits than Arrivals
The experienced trio of Gareth Barry, James Morrison and Wesley Hoolahan are all out of contract. The latter is highly unlikely to stay on after having not started a single league match all season. Barry and Morrison started 15 and 11 games respectively and are nothing if not experienced, though now may be the time to get rid of some dead wood and start fresh rather than asking a 38-year (Barry) old to somehow find a new lease of life.
The latest is that the new West Brom manager, whoever that may be, will get to decide on whether Barry and Morrison have a future at the club.
Left-back Kieran Gibbs, who was ever-present and scored four goals, is apparently the subject of interest from Fenerbahce. Jay Rodriguez, another who had an excellent season, may feel he fancies a move back to a Premier League club if the opportunity arises.
Salomon Rondon, the most valuable player of all on their books, is unlikely to be keen at a stab at promotion. The likely scenarios are another year on-loan at Newcastle or a permanent move to Tyneside if they pay his £16.5m release clause, though plenty of other big European clubs will be keen to secure his services as well, whether on loan or through an actual sale.
Players in? 17-year old Owen Windsor of Cirencester Town is apparently a target. He’s impressed in his short career in football but he’s surely one for the future rather than the present. It’s a bit much to ask a teenager from non-league football to spearhead a promotion challenge against experienced, bruising Championship defenders.
Besides, if it’s a young striker they want, they have one at the club already: Jamie Soule, he of the reported interest from Borussia Dortmund, still has one more year on his contract and West Brom could consider offering him an improved one, based on encouraging performances for their youth sides.
There’s not much else to speak of at the moment in terms of possible recruitment.
Baggies will Surely be in the Mix
West Brom are third favourites for promotion. That looks about right. If they can keep some of their better players like Gibbs, Rodriguez and Craig Dawson at the club, in light of interest from other clubs while adding a goalscoring midfielder to their ranks, a play-off place would be seen as an absolute minimum. That said, their most important summer appointment is surely in the manager’s department.
Leeds and relegated Fulham will certainly be in the mix for automatic promotion, with the latter particularly potent in attack. Cardiff look like a side not good enough for the Premier League but well-suited to the rigours of a year-long slog in the Championship.