John Williams

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It’s official: Pardew named new West Brom boss

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Alan Pardew was hired as coach of West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, securing a return to the Premier League after nearly a year out of management.

The 56-year-old Pardew signed a two-and-a-half-year deal as a replacement for Tony Pulis, who was fired by West Brom’s Chinese owner last week with the team near to the relegation zone.

Pardew inherits a team that is only two points above the bottom three, and is without a win in 13 games in all — 12 of those coming in the league. His first match in charge is on Saturday against Crystal Palace, the club that fired him last December.

“The immediate challenge will be to get the results we need to pull ourselves up the table,” Pardew said. “But I’m aware that while I’m joining one of the great, traditional clubs of English football, it is one determined to go forward in the Premier League.”

Pardew has also coached Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, Charlton and Reading. West Brom was attracted by his experience of managing in the Premier League.

“Alan brings the experience of more than 300 Premier League games,” West Brom chairman John Williams said, “and the kind of dynamic leadership from which our club can benefit.”

Pardew was voted as the Premier League’s manager of the year in 2012 for guiding Newcastle to a fifth-place finish, but fell out of favor with the club’s fans and left for Palace in December 2014.

Again, he made a good start at a new club, lifting Palace out of the relegation zone and into the top half by the end of that season, but the south London team won only six of 36 games in 2016 and Pardew was fired before the year was over. He has since done some TV work.

While his immediate task will be to keep West Brom in the lucrative Premier League, he may also need to introduce a more positive brand of soccer. West Brom fans grew tired of Pulis’ pragmatic and direct approach, wanting more than just survival in the top flight but some entertainment, too.

The club from central England came under new ownership last year, with Chinese businessman Lai Guochuan becoming the majority shareholder. Backed by Lai, West Brom spent $40 million in the summer and enriched the squad with players like Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain, left back Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal, and winger Oliver Burke from Leipzig.

West Brom has possibly got its strongest squad in decades, and Pardew needs to get more out of it than Pulis.

Gary Megson, who took charge of the team on an interim basis following the departure of Pulis, has left the club, He guided West Brom to two draws, at Tottenham on Saturday and at home against Newcastle on Tuesday.

Palace and West Brom: Knowing when to cut ties

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This one’s for two chairmen, Steve Parish of Crystal Palace and John Williams of West Bromwich Albion, if anyone’s passing along advice from a writer with exactly zero Premier League experience.

There’s a temptation to leave well enough alone with managers, an allure made only more seductive by the fact that coaching stability is almost contrarian in the high-turnover world of the Premier League.

And if you’re goal is to just survive every year, then by all means, read no further. You have your men in Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce.

Before we go any further, let’s admit to some prejudices. Pulis’ management preference to often bunker down and strip attacking talents of freedom, at least on the surface, is far from alluring and doesn’t quite fit the expectations of West Brom. And Allardyce is Allardyce, a blustery, credit-claiming boss who’s prime claim  is “I keep ’em up.”

But even beyond that, there’s a question whether either can change aims with so many years of the same anthems.

Pulis’ stingy teams have done relatively well, no doubt, and in no way is he a bad hire for a team with a vacant manager’s chair. But what happened for a second-straight season at the Hawthorns should be unacceptable, especially considering that this season saw a ship chartered toward high success.

When the Baggies clinched safety in 2015-16 only to fall flatter than Saido Berahino‘s West Brom career, it was forgivable. The Baggies hit the 39-point mark with a memorable win over Manchester United, then managed just four points over their last nine matches. That included home losses to Norwich City and Watford.

But critics — myself included — were eating their words when Pulis had West Brom dancing in the Top Ten deep into the 2016-17 season. These weren’t 1-0 counterattacking snoozefests, either, as Pulis was producing goals. Yet what happened when the Baggies hit their vaunted 40-point mark, this time on Feb. 25? One more win the rest of the way, to go with nine losses and two draws.

Here’s what Pulis said after a couple losses, “Complacency is the most annoying word in the dictionary. It is human nature to switch off a bit sometime.”

Sure, but how can it surprise when your mantra from August on is seemingly, “Get 40 points.” Staying switched on when you’ve targeted 40 like it’s the Champions League group stage is tough.

Still, that’s nothing compared to Allardyce, and Parish would be wise to leap at Big Sam’s latest big threats of quitting Palace. Forget that he was hired anywhere after his embarrassing ouster from the England job for a second, and focus on this:

Allardyce took over from Alan Pardew, and Palace slipped into the drop zone. Palace had done a woeful job of recruitment in the summer and Pardew overly complicated his problems by refusing to consistently plug service machines Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha into the mix with Christian Benteke.

Allardyce did fix that, but if he deserves anything it’s for striking it rich on three terrific transfer buys in Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. Spending in January is as important as it’s ever been, and Allardyce had more tools in his shed than Pardew or even Pulis beforehand.

Which is to say that if Palace likes Allardyce, fine, but to credit him for this turnaround is only partially worthwhile. To expect him to suddenly become or surprass the man who thrived at Bolton between 1999-2007 is foolish. Almost all of his career nods that don’t involve “avoided relegation” come at levels outside the Premier League, and Palace wants to keep growing.

Back to Pulis, he’s again highlighting the need for West Brom to spend, and perhaps that would allow him to adjust his mentality in the run-up to next season (You’d like to think he’d at least target a Cup run).

What’s worth saying is not that Palace and West Brom should fire their bosses. In Pulis’ case, let’s see if spending can change his stripes a bit (although it should be noted they’ve purchased Nacer Chadli, Matty Phillips, and Salomon Rondon). In Allardyce’s case, it’s a matter of employing a man who’s only out for his reputation and is either going to succeed and claim it was all his genius, or fail and put it on the players or board.

Aren’t there better options?