In our Transfers that shook the club feature, Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at deals that had many may not have seen coming and the impact that they had during their time by using statistical data and pundit remarks.
The latter part of the 2010s was far from kind to West Brom. Tony Pulis may have guided the Baggies to 10th in the Premier League in 2016/17 but a poor start to the following season, coupled with a turgid style of play, saw him given the chop a third of the way through the campaign. The subsequent appointment of Alan Pardew proved disastrous, with only three wins in five months that also encompassed a humiliating episode whereby four players stole a taxi during a training camp in Spain.
Darren Moore tried valiantly to keep Albion in the top flight towards the end of that season but the damage had been done long before he was parachuted into the main job. After his caretaker role became permanent, a succession of poor home results in 2019 led to his sacking and saw James Shan step up for the remainder of the season. Play-off semi-final disappointment precluded him from following Moore in getting the job permanently.
In little more than 18 months, four managers had been churned by The Hawthorns revolving door. The club could not afford another botched appointment, although the choice they made just under a year ago seemed a very ambitious one. Slaven Bilic, who had worked wonders with Croatia at Euro 2008 and achieved West Ham’s highest Premier League points tally, was tasked with the job of trying to get West Brom out of the Championship.
A man who had managed players such as Dimitri Payet, Darijo Srna, Luka Modric and Ivica Olic was now holding the reins at The Hawthorns. It certainly seemed a more inspiring choice than the likes of Pulis and Pardew not long before him, but Bilic would need positive results to back up his rock-and-roll reputation.
The early signs suggested that life under the Croatian would be entertaining – West Brom both scored and conceded in each of his first nine games in charge, with a surprise Carabao Cup exit at home to Millwall proving a blip as they surged to the top of the Championship, losing only once in the first half of the campaign, and that was against similarly high-flying Leeds. Indeed, the defeat at Elland Road was the only one of Bilic’s first 24 league games in which the Baggies didn’t score. [via TransferMarkt]
However, Albion hit a sudden dip over the festive period and into 2020, going seven games without winning and collecting only four points from a possible 21. Thankfully, their strong results from earlier in the season meant that they never fell out of the automatic promotion places and a six-game unbeaten run in the league prior to the coronavirus-enforced stoppage of the season has left them firmly on course to return to the Premier League. [via TransferMarkt]
Bilic has struck an ideal balance between scintillating and solid in his first season at The Hawthorns – they have the Championship’s joint-best attack with 64 goals and its third-best defence with just 33 goals conceded (as per TransferMarkt). He has gleaned 1.85 points per game from his 41 matches in charge so far, a better average than any permanent manager in Albion’s modern history.
Has Bilic been West Brom's best manager of the modern era?
He has also made some very astute additions to the squad in his time at the club – Charlie Austin has been utilised off the bench to excellent effect several times this season, Romaine Sawyers has been hailed as a talent too good for the second tier by Sky Sports‘ Adam Bate, Semi Ajayi has been a rock at the back as well as a decent scorer and on-loan Matheus Pereira has provided a whopping 16 assists. For less than £20m, the 51-year-old has brought no fewer than 12 players to The Hawthorns, several of whom have proven to be inspired additions.
The Croatian has won the affection of the Albion faithful in a way that Pulis and Pardew never could, with some supporters even citing him as the club’s ‘signing of the season‘. After some rather bleak years and questionable choices of manager, Bilic has had West Brom supporters excitedly dreaming of a return to the Premier League while working the transfer market very cleverly and delivering plenty of goals along the way. The rock-and-roll approach is one that has paid dividends for the Baggies’ hierarchy with the appointment of Bilic.
West Brom fans, what have you made of Bilic in his time at the club? Did his initial appointment take you by surprise? Comment below with your views!
Click here to comment on this articleor
Give us feedback on your Football Transfer Tavern experience