Alan Irvine

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Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

Norwich confirms Alex Neil sacking as club continues slide

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With the team’s hopes of promotion likely over, Norwich City has opted to move on from its current manager.

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The club announced on Friday that manager Alex Neil has been sacked after Norwich slipped to eighth place in the SkyBet Championship as of late.

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“Norwich City can confirm manager Alex Neil’s contract has been terminated with immediate effect,” a club statement read.

“The board has taken the tough but unanimous decision, believing it is in the best interests of the club for a new manager to be in place through a crucial summer transfer window and into next season.”

Norwich looked poised to at least qualify for the league’s promotion playoff several weeks back, but the Canaries have since gone winless in six of its last seven matches in the Championship. The club’s last win came nearly a month ago when Norwich knocked off Nottingham Forest, 5-1, at Carrow Road.

Neil, 35, had managed Norwich since 2015, winning 45 matches in charge of the club. Norwich assistant Alan Irvine will take over the club’s managerial duties in Neil’s absence, with Irvine’s last head coaching position coming in 2014 with West Bromwich Albion.

Irvine lasted under six months with the Baggies after winning five of his opening 22 matches at The Hawthorns.

The Canaries currently sit nine points behind sixth place Sheffield Wednesday, who holds the final spot for this season’s promotion playoff.

Former Villa boss Paul Lambert appointed manager at Blackburn

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Blackburn Rovers have named Paul Lambert the club’s newest manager.

Lambert becomes the club’s seventh manager in seven seasons after Gary Bowyer was sacked last week. Rovers currently sits 16th in the Championship.

The 46-year-old Scot managed Aston Villa in the Premier League from 2012-15, but was fired last February. At Blackburn, Lambert will be assisted by Alan Irvine, another former manager from the top flight.

[ REPORT: Liverpool targeting Leroy Sane ]

Irvine started last season in charge at West Brom, but was sacked in December just seven months into his tenure. He now returns to Blackburn, where he coached the club’s youth team from 1993-98.

Following his appointment, Lambert released a statement on Rovers’ club website:

I would like to thank the Owners and Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity to manage such a fantastic club.

Blackburn Rovers is a club with superb support and fine traditions, being a founding member of both the Football League and the Premier League.

After a short period out of the game, I feel refreshed and I am really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Blackburn was a member of the original Premier League in 1992, and won the title in the 1994-95 season. They were relegated to the Championship in 2012, where they have played since.