In 2001, 59 year old Sharon Stone claimed that while suffering a brain hemorrhage, she died and came back to life. She also claims she saw her close friends who had died, friends who were so dear to her. But it was so sudden and the white light that was engulfing her quickly went up in smoke and she was back in her body again. Whether you believe this or not is up for debate but what is surely believable is the spiritual place where people meet dear
dead friends of theirs. Certainly this is where Alan Pardew, David Moyes, Roy Hodgson and (soon to be) Sam Allardyce crossed paths right before they came back to managerial life and got jobs this season. The four managers are certainly four strong points for the detractors of the fact that foreign managers are taking the jobs away from young British managers (How many are they anyway?)
So 11 months after Pardew’s sacking and this blog’s promise that he will be back, Mr Perfect Hair strolled through the revolving doors at the West Bromwich Albion Training Ground. Doors that have to be said had not yet swung back to place owing to Pulis’s slow, deathly and non-attacking nature of football.
His first port of call will be to shore up the defence. Conceding (especially from set pieces) and Tony Pulis have never been in the same narrative especially on the back end of last season where Tony led the team to 10th in the Premier League. Something they had not achieved in a considerable amount of time. Further their defence was among the top last season. Fast forward to this season and they have conceded 23 goals in 14 games which averages 1.6 per game. This is something quite shocking and Pardew has to fix this very very quickly. He will have to depend on the experience of McAuley, Dawson and Johnny Evans to step up and take responsibility from now on.
Confidence also has to be restored to the team. Just like Everton, the West Brom players have looked clueless and shell-shocked even in instances where they played in front of their own fans – case in point the 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea. The home crowd this season has tended to be edgy and very nervous, with every misplaced pass drawing a gasp perhaps in anticipation of an inevitable atrocity. To cure this, Alan will need the crowd to back the team so as to get them firing. The last two games have exhibited the soft center that West Brom possess where they have scored first but fail to see of the game hence leading to two consecutive lucky draws owing to the controversial calls that officials have made against their opposition. Confidence will get them playing composed football again.
What has to be said is that the style of play at the Hawthorns will not be revolutionary and the Baggies will not transform into a possession-based, slick passing football team. With Pardew’s appointment, that childish line of ‘be careful what you wish for’ has once again been hurled at the West Brom faithful, as if consistent mediocrity is a better option to the ‘unknown’. However as Pardew mentioned in his maiden press conference, he intends to get the team to play an expansive type of football. This will be adequate entertainment to a stadium that has become ghostly this season due to the ghostly thing in the name of football that has been pranced around often with four central defenders, three defensive midfielders, two very wide wingers and a lone man upfront. Matt Philips has been offered very limited playing time this season but leads the club’s most chances created list. Further, with the presence of Gareth Barry, the experienced midfielder can provide an anchor for a free role midfielder to do the running and link the passes. Barry’s range of passing will also give an opportunities to the zippy wingers like McCLean to work their stuff. Chadli just has to come back into this fold. You’ll be naive to believe that he is injured. Something happened between him and Pulis in the background. Perhaps he refused to tuck in and desired to be expansive? We can only speculate.
What will be good news for West Brom is that Pardew has often been a man of quick fixes. He has been known to squeeze every last drop from his players to ride the new manager wave. This will be very important as his next two games will be against Crystal Palace and Swansea. He will certainly be desperate to do one over his former employers. There is currently a five point difference between 17th placed West Brom and 9th placed Leicester. In a league where Eddie Howe alludes to the fact that you are one result away from a crisis and one win away from safety, there is no overstating the importance of the next two games.
It is difficult to wrap your head around the fact that West Brom’s biggest win this season is a 1-0 victory against Burnley. In light of this, I do not think that the fans have the liberty to cross Pardew’s Ts and dot his i’s. They simply have to get behind him. The same goes for the players. They have to start playing for the shirt again. With a relatively comfortable contract, Pardew has the added advantage of a full month before deciding who to buy and who to offload in January. He will no doubt make West Brom watchable again.. Surely it can’t be worse?!
‘When death comes to you, as it will, it’s a glorious and beautiful thing. I had an incredible sense of well-being and a sense that it’s just so near. Death – it’s very near and very safe. It’s not a far away or scary thing.’ Sharon Stone stated at the end of her interview. Alan Pardew will certainly hope he can keep the proverbial grim reaper at an arms length as soon and as long as possible.