Opinion: West Brom’s decision to sack Slaven Bilic was unfair, but Sam Allardyce could prove to be the ideal replacement

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 16 December 2020, 12:43

There’s no question that West Brom’s decision to appoint Sam Allardyce as Slaven Bilic’s replacement is a marmite move by the club.

Firstly, Bilic can count himself unjust at becoming the first victim of the current campaign’s Premier League Sack Race.

Last season the Croatian successfully propelled the club into the Premier League at the first time of asking, and while the Baggies have not set the division alight, they are only two points adrift of safety with a load of games still to be played.

They were unfortunate not to beat Chelsea earlier in the season, they recently picked up their first win, and then on Tuesday night they impressively held Man City to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad.

The timing stinks.

The Premier League is an incredibly difficult league and while demanding owners want exciting football and three points every week, they need a dose of realism. After all, the club’s priority is survival and there’s no reason to doubt that Bilic couldn’t have secured it should he have been given the whole season.

But football is very cruel, and now Bilic finds himself in the Job Centre, while a very familiar face is set to return to the dugout following a 31 month absence.

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There’s often a negative perception that Allardyce solely employs direct and physical football, with his critics slamming his style of play, methods and old school persona.

Yet Allardyce is a vastly experienced manager who time and time again has successfully made a mockery of his critics. 

And there’s been a lot of them.

There’s no getting away from the fact that West Brom’s immediate focus is staying in the league.

While a pragmatic approach is often frowned upon, the football is rarely pretty in a relegation scrap, and when it is it can often backfire - just look at Norwich last season.

In Allardyce, West Brom have a - get ready for the cliche - ‘firefighter’ who has managed seven Premier League clubs and not once suffered relegation out of the division. He won’t be planning to taint that record either.

Only four managers have accumulated more Premier League matches than Allardyce’s 512.

He’s straight-talking, hard-working, proven to be innovative in his employment of sports science and data analysis, and given his organisational skills he will undoubtedly sort out the Premier League’s most breached backline.

"Beyond the brash persona, Allardyce was a genuinely innovative manager; only Arsene Wenger did more to evolve the Premier League behind the scenes during the Premier League’s first decade," wrote Michael Cox in The Mixer.

The 63-year-old hasn’t been afraid to think outside the box, for example he drank in buckets of information from American football; from nutrition and physiological procedures, to crunching numbers.

While he thrived at Bolton, rescued the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and won promotion with West Ham, he did struggle to assert himself in ‘bigger jobs’ such as Everton and Newcastle.

However, Allardyce at West Brom could prove to be an ideal partnership, in the short-term at least.

The sacking of Bilic is questionable, but those quick to write off Allardyce as a ‘dinosaur’ could be in for a shock.

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