Former Everton youth coach Alan Irvine takes control of West Bromwich Albion this season, giving him his first Premier League managerial role. Finishing 17th last year, leaving their survival until the penultimate game and going through a managerial change during the course of the season, most West Brom fans will be happy to put last season behind them. However, the Midlands side limped into their fourth successive Premier League campaign and look to have made good steps towards securing their future in the top division over the summer.
The summer transfer activity has been somewhat encouraging. Signing Joleon Lescott from Manchester City was a huge and early bonus that will help strengthen a weak defense. After starting the summer with no recognized full backs, Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom, Costa Rican World Cup star Cristian Gamboa, Chris Baird and Andre Wisdom have come to fill in the gaps. With Ben Foster signing a new contract, Alan Irvine has obviously noted the weakness in defense that saw West Brom lose so many points from winning positions last season.
Further up the field, The Baggies have broken their transfer record for Nigeria and Dynamo Kiev striker Brown Ideye. He is somewhat of an unknown quantity, and the 25-year old was a startling omission from the Nigerian World Cup squad, but West Brom have shelled out £10million for the striker’s services, so big things will be expected of him. He has scored 33 times in his 74 outings for Kiev and will hope to transfer this form to the Premier League. He is definitely a gamble, but one that West Brom obviously have faith in.
Perhaps West Brom are still a little short in an attacking sense, though the contract extension of Graham Dorrans will help this. However, what is more important than this is the slightly unknown quantity of Alan Irvine. He has worked alongside David Moyes in a number of roles as well as having spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End in the lower leagues of English football. He hasn’t had great success with these sides, but people note him for his meticulous and thorough managing style as well as his good communication. Perhaps more than his abilities, his continuing presence will prove important. The West Brom players will have had to adapt their style mid-season as Pepe Mel replaced Steve Clarke, but at least with this change they have had a whole pre-season under their belt to prepare.
If West Brom is able to create some continuity this season, then they should be able to do enough to survive. They now have real Premier League experience and some exciting young talents to blend into their experienced line up. Last season has the potential to be just a blip on the radar of Premier League longevity, something that the Baggies may well be able to put behind them. With a new look, solid defense, West Brom should be able to build on the tatters of the previous year and push forward.