West Brom made the brave decision to sack Tony Pulis last week and they have yet to appoint his replacement. This shows that it wasn’t a planned decision and the manner of recent performances forced their hand. Gary Megson has drawn his two matches as caretaker and as an ex-manager of the club, he is a safe pair of hands for the interim period. However, it was always unlikely that he would be given the job for a long period of time and recent reports suggest a permanent appointment is imminent.
The Mirror report that Alan Pardew is set to replace Pulis at the Hawthorns and that is an interesting move that is risky for both parties. The Baggies have favoured British managers in their recent history, therefore it is not surprising that they are making the decision to appoint an experienced, English manager. However, the former Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager has been out of the game for nearly a year and his last stint in the Premier League ended awfully.
The Eagles looked set for relegation and were shipping goals with ease, which led to Sam Allardyce replacing him. There is a media narrative that Pardew struggles to arrest a slide and that trend has been evident at every club he has been at. For the initial period, he achieves good results and West Brom are appointing him to ensure they retain their top-flight status this season. The main risk comes from the long-term chances of success, as he has no track record of delivering it.
For Pardew, this is a huge risk as it is likely to be his final opportunity in the top-flight. He failed to deliver success at Newcastle and oversaw the initial decline that eventually led to their relegation in 2016. Palace appointed him as he had a good relationship with the supporters and he did manage to lead them to an FA Cup final in 2016, but his antics on the touchline are the long-lasting memory of the match, rather than the result. That marked the beginning of the end as Palace had an awful start to the 2016/17 season and he was dismissed before the new year.
During that period, his reputation took a hit and he has failed to land another job since. He has remained in the public eye by doing punditry for Sky Sports. In one sense, this opportunity has arrived at a good time for Pardew. West Brom are an established Premier League team with a very talented squad that is capable of doing more than they were under Pulis. The likes of Jonny Evans, Nacer Chadli, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Salomon Rondon have played to a high standard and are able to do more than they currently are.
It would be unfair to tarnish Pardew with the same brush as Pulis, as his teams do try to play a more attacking style. However, he has never been a reliable defensive coach and that leads to a lot of the problems that he faces. During the 2016/17 season, his Palace team kept only one clean sheet before his sacking and to underline his struggles during his final year, the Eagles lost 22 from 36 matches in 2016.
West Brom are bringing him in to improve the style of play and he has the tools to do that, but the changes he makes may create a new issue in defence. Throughout the Pulis era, the Baggies have been one of the better defensive teams outside of the top six. That trend has shifted this season, but they will have a good foundation for Pardew to build on. Initially, the defensive structure is likely to remain impressive, but this is an area of concern for the long-term.
Is he the right appointment?
Baggies’ supporters are still on a high from the decision to sack Pulis as the majority were pushing for change since the summer. Pardew will benefit from being the man to follow the Welshman as he will be given a chance to prove himself. However, it is a less exciting appointment than many supporters would have hoped for. His stock is at an all-time low after his failure with Palace and he will need to start strongly if he is to be given a fair chance.
There has been a trend in the Premier League this season to appoint experienced British managers. The media have often criticised the influx of foreign managers into the Premier League and blamed them for the lack of young, British managers coming through. However, this season, it has been the older British managers that have failed countless times before that are blocking the path to those making their way in the lower leagues.
Pardew is one of the better examples of a British manager getting another chance that is probably underserved. At Newcastle, he managed to finish 5th in one season, but the rest of his tenure was underwhelming at best. He was a pushover for Mike Ashley and allowed the club to enter a decline to the Championship. His reputation was protected as the media didn’t criticise him. Although he wasn’t sacked, he wasn’t doing a good job and the decision to move to Crystal Palace was one of self-preservation.
Throughout his career, he has always started well and survival this season should be within his capabilities, especially given the quality of the squad. However, it is an appointment that lacks ambition as the club aren’t planning for the long term. Pardew is unlikely to deliver better finishing positions than Pulis did. The football might be better to watch, but the results won’t change.