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Comment: West Brom owner Guochuan Lai shows his ruthless side, but what will it achieve?

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published: | Last Updated:

It’s hard to see what a double sacking now will achieve.

Chairman John Williams and chief executive Martin Goodman were always destined to be in the firing line should the Baggies go down.

Albion are cut adrift at the bottom of the league and the manager has already been changed this season.

The board were bound to be held to account by the owner at some stage, particularly one who bought the club for nearly £200m because it was well established in the Premier League.

But if Guochuan Lai was unhappy with the way they were running the club, the time to do this was in the summer, when it could have been a clean break.

All this double sacking does, with 11 league games left for Alan Pardew to save the season, is plunge the club into further turmoil.

Lai is flexing his muscles. At best, he’s trying to show he cares, at worst, he’s lashing out in frustration.

Changes in the boardroom will not instil confidence in the dressing room.

The regime that appointed Alan Pardew is gone, although his friend and confidant Nick Hammond remains as technical director.

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Even though both are safe for now, after one win in 13 league games, they might be fearing a bombshell call from China too.

Just two weeks ago there was so much hope following three wins out of four and a positive January window that brought in Daniel Sturridge and kept Jonny Evans at the club.

But in the short space of a fortnight, Albion have descended into chaos.

Williams and Goodman have been sacked, ultimately, because of their decision back in November to axe Tony Pulis.

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The Welshman was always seen as a safe bet in China, a steady hand on the tiller who would keep the club up at all costs.

When he left, Albion were hovering above the bottom three. Less than three months later, they are five points adrift at the foot of the table, destined for the drop.

Guochuan Lai saw Tony Pulis as a safe pair of hands. (AMA)

Everyone who went to the games, realised it was time for Pulis to go. He had divided the club for a while and the Baggies were heading down with him at the helm.

But Lai only attends a handful of games a season. An absent owner, all he sees from Shanghai is the position in the table and, this season, all that television money going down the bin.

Williams sacked Pulis at the right time. He deserved a chance to turn form around after guiding the club to 10th the previous season, but his exit in November gave the new man plenty of time.

The decision that he and Goodman should be held accountable for, is the following one.

Alan Pardew has made Albion more fun to watch, but results haven’t improved, and the team has slid downwards.

The worrying thing, however, is that Lai seems to be more concerned by the Pulis sacking than the Pardew appointment.

Hammond, who was instrumental in that decision, remains at the club. Shoved to peripheries under Pulis, he has only really had one window in control of transfers.

He and Pardew have stayed on because their fingerprints aren’t on what Lai believes is the incriminating evidence.

It’s been a strange season for a squad widely heralded as Albion’s strongest in some years, and Williams’ negotiating in the transfer window was on the whole, a success.

He wrangled far too much money out of Stoke for Saido Berahino, and the only player he overpaid for during his 18 months in charge was Oliver Burke.

In the summer he spread out £40m shrewdly, strengthening from back to front.

It was Pulis’s perversion for holding midfielders – coupled with untimely injuries to James Morrison and Nacer Chadli – that left Albion lopsided, not Williams’ bargaining.

Both Williams and Goodman were also willing to engage with supporters.

The chairman spoke to a select group of fans before most home matches, he bought beers for intrepid travellers in Hong Kong last summer, and both regularly attended supporters’ groups.

Mark Jenkins, who has returned to run the club as chief executive, was never as willing to engage during his 14 years at the club.

But his return speaks volumes about Lai’s intentions. The Chinese owner cares about Premier League status and little else.

Jenkins has proved adept at getting Albion back up to the promised land before, and if he stays beyond the summer it’s looking increasingly like he will be tasked with that again next season.

Who he will be doing it alongside, however, is up in the air. Lai has this week shown a ruthless side not seen by the Albion before. But what it will achieve remains to be seen.

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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