Following on from the sacking of Alan Irvine, West Brom have decided against the highly tipped Tim Sherwood as his replacement but have instead opted for a man who knows all about turning a struggling side around, in none other than Tony Pulis. The current #Premier League Manager of the Year is a pragmatic choice with a proven track record of making the most out of the resources available to him and succeeding in the Premier League, as evidenced by his handling of Crystal Palace last season and prior to that with Stoke City. With Palace, he took a side that many had predicted were destined for certain relegation and not only avoided the drop (and the massive financial repercussions that entails) but hoisted them into mid-table security. ‘Baggies’ fans will no doubt be hoping for something similar, after a recent dip in form has left them dangerously close to the bottom three in 16th place and only a point above the relegation places. They will also surely seek a period of managerial stability, given that Pulis will be the fourth man in charge at the club in a year.
Fifty-six year old Pulis has been given the official role of ‘head coach’ in a two-and-half-year deal, which to all intents and purposes is an old fashioned manager’s post. He has stipulated within the contract negotiations that he will have final say on transfers and the players he brings in, a stance that goes contrary to that in many other clubs these days where the manager often has to work with the players he is presented with. Pulis enjoys the ‘hands on’ approach with his players and feels that is how he gets the optimum rewards from their abilities, so clearly sought assurances that he would have ultimate control on who he works with. In the past he has utilised fitness coaches but also likes to have some personal involvement on that side, with a strong understanding regarding what fitness is appropriate for playing Premier League #Football.
The new man will not take charge of West Brom immediately, as it is planned for him to pick up the reins after today’s Premier League fixture at high flying West Ham. His imminent task will be to ensure his side start picking up points in the league although following on from their trip to the Hammers, they have a third round FA Cup tie on Saturday at home to Gateshead to negotiate before Pulis can start to reverse their league form.
He inherits a squad with a nucleus of quality players such as the talented under-21 England international, Saido Berahino, in attack and the experienced ex- Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott in defence. Berahino started the season in sparkling form and merited his selection for the full national team (although he did not actually play) but has failed to score and impress in recent weeks, prompting his removal from the first eleven. Lescott’s form has also dipped below his usual high standards, so Pulis will seek to redress that and get him back to his commanding best at the back. The January transfer window is likely to see West Brom seeking a number of reinforcements, with rumours circulating that Peter Crouch from Stoke and Callum McManaman at Wigan will be top of their wish list, although Championship topping Bournemouth also seem interested in the tricky winger.
Speaking after his appointment, Pulis stated that “every successful club is built on unity and that is what I shall strive to help bring to Albion”. Fans of the Midlands club will no doubt echo those sentiments, but the initial thoughts of many knowledgeable observers is that the Baggies have made the best choice that they could in the situation they currently find themselves in.