IAN HERBERT: West Brom have made a DISMAL call in axing Slaven Bilic – he restored life to the club on their journey back to the Premier League and cherished the Black Country… but the Baggies’ board have short memories and narrow minds
- Sacked West Brom manager Slaven Bilic restored life, laughter and joy to club
- Fans embraced and loved Bilic’s passion, uncomplicated authenticity and clarity
- Without him, they simply would not have won promotion to the Premier League
- Baggies turn to the grey homogeneity of Sam Allardyce, playing the percentages
They have short memories and narrow minds in the boardroom of West Bromwich Albion.
The manager they’ve just sacked – the morning after he took a point at Manchester City in a performance of monumental defensive resilience – is the same one who restored life, laughter and joy to a club which seemed to have forgotten what any of the above felt like.
‘It smells of football here,’ Slaven Bilic said just a year ago, when he sat down to talk with a few of us.
Slaven Bilic restored life, laughter and joy to club which seemed to forget what they felt like
Bilic was sacked by West Brom the morning after he took a point off Manchester City
The club’s fans embraced and loved Bilic’s passion, uncomplicated authenticity and clarity
He laughed at his own struggle to grasp the Midlands accent. He wanted to discuss the Black Country, which he’d only recently discovered was the collective name for the industrial towns of the West Midlands. He was captivated by the Midlands.
Those who claim that these incidental details are immaterial to a club which sits second bottom of the Premier League position are as myopic as the club’s board.
After the mechanical ways of Tony Pulis and the tactical methods of Darren Moore, which baffled many around The Hawthorns, the club’s fans embraced and loved Bilic’s passion, uncomplicated authenticity and clarity. Without him, they simply would not have won promotion to the Premier League, a mere five months ago. That warranted some loyalty, at least.
It is an understatement to say the club have not helped him since reaching football’s high plateau. The decision to sell 29-year-old centre back Ahmed Hegazi to Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad for £4million, hours before the team faced Brighton, was bizarre. There were doubts about Bilic’s future when he made no attempt to disguise his fury at this. That’s the individual he is. A heart-on-the-sleeve man.
The decision to part company with him would perhaps be more understandable were the team in free fall. But they are not.
The performance before a late home defeat by Tottenham – an 88th minute Harry Kane goal – created a real sense around the training ground that the club were acclimatising to the Premier League.
It is an understatement to say club have not helped him since reaching football’s high plateau
The decision to sell Ahmed Hegazi for £4m, hours before the team faced Brighton, was bizarre
The defeats by Manchester United and Newcastle were equally narrow. There was a poor home loss to Crystal Palace after Matheus Pereira’s early dismissal, yet victory over Sheffield United.
And then, the performance at the Etihad, which demonstrated that Bilic cannot only assemble a strong defence but imbue players with the determination and belief to perform at places like that.
To hear some of them giving interviews in the aftermath on Tuesday night called to mind the story of how he inspired his West Ham players to record an historic win at Anfield – by encouraging them to play Thin Lizzy’s Whisky in the Jar, on their sound system. He has a way with players. They respond.
Without Bilic, they simply would not have won promotion to Premier League, five months ago
He was a leader for straitened economic times at West Brom. The manager who found a system to make up for the loss of a string of strikers – his so-called ‘second wave’ which saw the side’s midfield racing forward to join the attack.
The manager whose low budget signings – including Croatian Filip Krovinovic and Charlie Austin – worked.
So now the club turn to the grey homogeneity of Sam Allardyce, playing the percentages as they seek survival in this deeply unpredictable Premier League season.
The colour, passion and spirit of adventure that Bilic brought is extinguished, along with any notion of decency. Yes, it’s short memories and narrow minds they have. What a dismal decision.
Baggies turn to the grey homogeneity of Sam Allardyce (R), playing percentages for survival
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