After the sacking of Tony Pulis on Monday, West Brom fans have every reason to be nervous about the club’s future.
Okay, so Pulis probably had to go: the Baggies were stagnating under his conservative stewardship, and the fans – plus some of the players, if the tabloids are to be believed – were desperate to see the Welshman collect his P45.
His dismissal should have been met with a sense of relief then; that is, until supporters saw the list of names linked with the now vacant position.
Alan Pardew, Michael O’Neill, Derek McInnes, Gary Megson….it’s not exactly a who’s who of the game’s greats. Pardew looks well settled in the Sky Sports studio, O’Neill did a fine job as Northern Ireland manager but has minimal club experience, while club legends Megson and McInnes are sentimental choices with very little chance of getting the job.
So how about the bookmakers’ favourite, Sam Allardyce? Paddy Power even went as far as suspending the betting on Big Sam yesterday, but the former England boss is a known friend of Pulis’ and may not want to take the job on for that reason.
And, less we forget, Allardyce turned down the chance to talk to Leicester recently as it wasn’t the right role for him. Can he honestly say that West Brom are a better proposition for a manager than the Foxes?
If all of our assumptions are true, then that’s the top five in the betting wiped out. West Brom are a side not afraid of making a shock appointment – who can forget Steve Clarke or Pepe Mel? – so perhaps there is an opportunity for punters to make some decent money on a long-priced pick that goes under the radar.
Here are a few candidates that would certainly raise a few eyebrows:
Mark Hughes (50/1)
Those readers with a long memory may recall that Mark Hughes cut his managerial teeth at Blackburn Rovers; transforming a side tipped for relegation into a top-six Premier League outfit that reached three consecutive FA and League Cup semi-finals.
Why is that interesting? Because the Blackburn chairman at the time was John Williams, who now holds the same position at West Brom. Don’t forget, Williams never sacked Hughes – the Welshman moved onto bigger things at Manchester City (whatever happened to them?), and the pair parted on good terms.
It’s a huge longshot, of course, but you just sense that if Stoke don’t progress this season then Hughes is almost certainly going to get the sack. Would he be better off cutting his losses and starting afresh elsewhere?
Jurgen Klinsmann (25/1)
In the summer of 2016 West Brom were purchased by Lai Guochuan, a Chinese billionaire who is the latest to throw some cash at the beautiful game.
Since his arrival he has only known one manager, Pulis himself, and so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Guochuan chucked a rather large financial carrot the way of his next prospective manager in an attempt to land a ‘big name’.
Someone who fits the bill is Jurgen Klinsmann, who has been out of the game for a year since his sacking from the USA national team position.
You could argue that the 53-year-old might just need to get back into management sooner rather than later, and starting at an English club with minimal expectations could be a good way to dip his toe in the water.
Michael Appleton (33/1)
To some extent, it was a strange decision on the part of Michael Appleton to abandon the fine job he had done at Oxford United to become Craig Shakespeare’s assistant at Leicester.
With Shakey out, Appleton has managed to hold onto the position of number two, but looking at the move from a careerist perspective it was clear that he knows he needs to serve a Premier League apprenticeship before getting a top job somewhere.
Perhaps the Baggies will consider that to be served now, and lest we forget that Appleton was a fan favourite at the club before a cruel knee injury forced his premature retirement.
He served as a coach, assistant manager and caretaker manager at West Brom, and so Appleton will surely come under consideration for the role if those in charge want to follow a ‘local boy’ route.
Ronald Koeman (16/1)
West Brom is a club with a very clear lineage of youth team development; after all, they at one time had both Dan Ashworth, who has gone on to work for the FA in a development role, and Aidy Boothroyd – now England Under-21s manager – on their youth coaching staff.
If that ethos remains, and the Baggies have a desire to bring more youth team players through, then they could do a lot worse than appointing Ronald Koeman as their new manager.
The Dutchman was noted in his time at Everton for blooding youngsters, and a few – Mason Holgate, Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin – look set for bigger and better things in the game.
We often have short memories as fans of the game, and while Koeman’s time at Everton this season was nothing short of disastrous, it would be remiss to forget the outstanding job he did at the Toffees during the last campaign.
Whether he would want to be subjected to the pitiful witterings of the English media and general public again is another story altogether.