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Alan Irvine Finally Showing His Managerial Mettle At West Brom

Irvine

Despite only being appointed in the summer of 2014, Alan Irvine’s tenure at West Bromwich Albion was never expected to be one of longevity. The Baggies supporters greeted the his acquisition with a collective shrug of the shoulders; after all, for all Irvine’s gentlemanly qualities, he’s yet to truly make his mark as a top quality manager.

But West Brom’s 2-2 draw in their most recent game with Manchester United capped off some undeniable early progress, and the former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday boss finally looks to have found the perfect club to can enhance his reputation as a manager.

It’s been far from plain sailing for Irvine, though. After failing to win any of their first four games of the season, the new manager found himself under heavy pressure early on, and with the supporters almost wholly unconvinced by his appointment, you wonder if a couple more losses may have spelled the end for the current boss.

Indeed, there are even questions as to whether the Albion hierarchy made their decision with appropriate conviction, especially given the fact Irvine was only appointed on a 12-month contract. It’s the kind of deal that’d make a new man easy to dispose of should the Hawthorns higher-ups have a change of heart, and surreptitiously ushered out should a perceivably better or more illustrious option become available at the end of the campaign.

But since the Baggies ground out a 1-0 win at Tottenham in their fifth game of the season, some clear stylistic principles have emerged and festered within West Brom team. Principles that Irvine has clearly moulded and refined during his myriad years in the game, but ones we’ve yet to see implemented fully.

Admittedly, Irvine does have to shoulder some of the blame for that. He did a decent job at Preston North End in his two-year stint with the club, pushing them out of the League One relegation zone and into 15th during his first season in charge; they went on to lose in the playoff semi-final the season after, and his eventual sacking was an unpopular decision with the Deepdale club.

In his second managerial role—as Sheffield Wednesday boss—the club were relegated from the Championship and although the Owls backed their man, there were little signs of an immediate return to English football’s second tier and he was relieved of his duties.

Given that kind of unconvincing record it’s easy to see why his appointment by a Premier League club was perceived as a peculiar one. Irvine has been lauded as a fine assistant manager and coach by many within the game, and after a start at West Brom during which his team looked overawed and lacking in cohesion, claims again emerged that the top job at a club might be beyond the Scot.

But as his squad buzzed about a Manchester United team bristling with some of the world’s finest players, Irvine is beginning to look like a manager vindicated and fulfilled. West Brom, in many respects, are the perfect club for him. They’re a wonderful and traditional footballing institution, but not one to hog the spotlight. Plus, all-in-all, the Baggies faithful are both well-informed and patient when it comes to their football.

Now they’re beginning to bare witness to a burgeoning side. Saido Berahino is a player that’s blossomed as a No. 9 under the tutelage of Irvine, not to mention other young players like on-loan Liverpool man Andre Wisdom and centre-back Craig Dawson, who seems to be growing in stature week-by-week. The acquisition of Joleon Lescott on a free transfer is also represents an inspired piece of business.

Taking a job on a 12-month deal was a massive risk for Irvine, but one you can imagine he will have felt implored to take. He’s never managed in the top flight after all, although if he was to fail at West Brom—as many expected him to do so—then it would have left him in an an undesirable and precarious position.

But the Hawthorns looks to be the ideal environment for him to grow and after getting his feet under the desk, getting his XI organized and finally beginning to impinge his influence on a team in the top division, the Baggies are reaping the rewards.

If West Brom continue to perform with this kind of swagger, diligence and ingenuity, surely it’s only a matter of time before Irvine is tied down to a long-term deal.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mark Williamson

    October 21, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    AS I do Leicester, I also love the spirit of this team. It almost seems as though the Premier League is changing, with smaller teams making themselves heard-parity of a sorts, maybe? Not sure, but it’s great for the game here in the U.S.

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