Following on from the sacking of Alan Irvine, West Bromhave decided against the highly tipped Tim Sherwood as his replacement but haveinstead 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 Yearis a pragmatic choice with a proven track record of making the most out of theresources available to him and succeeding in the Premier League, as evidencedby 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 relegationand not only avoided the drop (and the massive financial repercussions thatentails) but hoisted them into mid-table security.

‘Baggies’ fans will no doubtbe hoping for something similar, after a recent dip in form has left themdangerously close to the bottom three in 16th place and only a pointabove the relegation places. They will also surely seek a period of managerialstability, given that Pulis will be the fourth man in charge at the club in ayear.

Fifty-six year old Pulis has been given the official roleof ‘head coach’ in a two-and-half-year deal, which to all intents and purposesis an old fashioned manager’s post. He has stipulated within the contractnegotiations that he will have final say on transfers and the players he bringsin, a stance that goes contrary to that in many other clubs these days wherethe manager often has to work with the players he is presented with.

Pulisenjoys the ‘hands on’ approach with his players and feels that is how he getsthe optimum rewards from their abilities, so clearly sought assurances that hewould have ultimate control on who he works with. In the past he has utilisedfitness coaches but also likes to have some personal involvement on that side,with a strong understanding regarding what fitness is appropriate for playingPremier League Football.

The new man will not take charge of West Bromimmediately, as it is planned for him to pick up the reins after today’sPremier League fixture at high flying West Ham. His imminent task will be toensure his side start picking up points in the league although following onfrom their trip to the Hammers, they have a third round FA Cup tie on Saturdayat home to Gateshead to negotiate before Pulis can start to reverse theirleague form.

He inherits a squad with a nucleus of quality playerssuch as the talented under-21 England international, Saido Berahino, in attackand the experienced ex- Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott in defence.Berahino started the season in sparkling form and merited his selection for thefull national team (although he did not actually play) but has failed to scoreand impress in recent weeks, prompting his removal from the first eleven. Lescott’sform has also dipped below his usual high standards, so Pulis will seek toredress that and get him back to his commanding best at the back. The Januarytransfer window is likely to see West Brom seeking a number of reinforcements,with rumours circulating that Peter Crouch from Stoke and Callum McManaman atWigan will be top of their wish list, although Championship topping Bournemouthalso seem interested in the tricky winger.

Speaking after his appointment, Pulis stated that “everysuccessful club is built on unity and that is what I shall strive to help bringto Albion”. Fans of the Midlands club will no doubt echo those sentiments, butthe initial thoughts of many knowledgeable observers is that the Baggies havemade the best choice that they could in the situation they currently findthemselves in.