West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Irvine came into the club under heavy scrutiny with the overwhelming initial reaction of the fans being annoyance and frustration. General consensus was that if previous head coach Pepe Mel had been given time to implement his high pressing, quick counter attacking game, he may have been a success at WBA. The players he had were not good enough, not fit or fast enough to play how he wanted and he paid for their downfalls.
After the dismissal of Pepe Mel, Albion then bumbled around without a manager for a while, being linked to a few average names, and then the club finally offered Tim Sherwood the job. Great! Ambitious, young, English and outspoken, Sherwood seems to be his own man, a manager to shake up the dressing room and revolutionize the club, which would have been ideal for Albion. Just when WBA fans thought the club were on the brink of getting their man, the Baggies announced the appointment of Alan Irvine on a rolling 12 month contract.
Who? That’s right, Alan Irvine. The same manager who lost his job at Preston North End, and then got Sheffield Wednesday relegated from the Championship. My reaction, and the instinct of most West Brom fans was, “what the hell was going on?” It’s no secret that chairman Jeremy Peace likes to keep his arms short and pockets deep. Irvine was without question the cheap option.
However as time has elapsed, the appointment of Irvine is looking slightly more promising. It turns out Sheffield Wednesday were in all sorts of financial trouble when they were relegated, and the season before Irvine got the boot at Preston North End he actually took them to the play-offs in his first full season in-charge. He has no direct Premier League experience, but has lots in the youth system at Everton as academy manager. He also worked at Preston as assistant to David Moyes. Alongside those slightly reassuring nuggets of information, the players he’s managed to acquire give West Brom fans a glimmer of hope.
Speaking of transfer signings, Craig Gardner was the first man that signed his name for West Brom next season. Albion fans are pleased with this deal. He’s a born Brummie that has years of English Premier League experience. Sunderland picked him up for £6 million and used him sparingly. Hopefully West Brom can coax the best out of him. Time will only tell if Irvine can help Craig recapture his form.