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Comment: The reasons why it all went wrong for West Brom

West Bromwich Albion | Published: | Last Updated:

Like the majority of successes and failures in football, the reasons behind Albion’s relegation are varied and those accountable are many.

Alan Pardew. (AMA)

Absent owners, an incompetent board, failing head coaches and underperforming players all played their part in this drop to the Championship that will end an eight-year stint in the top tier.

Although the Baggies won their first three games of the season in all competitions, the origin of the malaise came months before.

Tony Pulis may have guided the club to a top-half finish last season, but a nine-game winless streak at the end of the campaign took the shine off.

During that period, the Baggies also waved goodbye to Jonas Olsson – one of the biggest characters in the dressing room.

His exit was compounded by club captain Darren Fletcher leaving for Stoke early in the summer, a move that would have wider ramifications on the squad and in particular Jonny Evans, his close friend who shared lifts with him to training.

Olsson’s ability to cut it in the Premier League was on the wane, and the Potters offered Fletcher a big contract Albion couldn’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, have matched.

But losing two leaders from the dressing room would sting the Baggies further down the line during the dark moments when shoulders dropped.

It’s hard to imagine either Olsson or Fletcher accepting some of the performances served up this season.

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The first signs that Pulis’s control on the squad had started to splinter came before a ball had even been kicked, when record signing Nacer Chadli refused to go on the annual pre-season training camp to Austria.

Although his team-mates were just as unimpressed with the Belgian as Pulis was, it was the start of the end for the Welshman.

Those victories over Bournemouth, Burnley and Accrington Stanley just papered over the cracks that had already emerged.

Tony Pulis. (AMA)

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After two-and-a-half-years of relentless dog-work and endless defensive drills, the players craved something more.

Gary Megson summed it up best by repeating a piece of advice Jack Charlton told him.

“The first year, you say jump, everybody jumps. The second year you say jump, they say how high? The third year you say jump, they say we’ve been doing that for two years.”

In Pulis’s defence, there were signs in the early games that he was trying to evolve his style to a more aesthetically pleasing model, but as results caught up with him he retreated back into his shell and the players lost interest in his methods.

Having saved Albion from relegation before rebuilding the squad and finishing in the top half, Pulis had earned the right to try and evolve, but through a mixture of his own deficiencies and player apathy, he couldn’t.

He may have been sacked one game too late, but it was still November, there were still two-thirds of the season remaining and Albion weren’t even in the bottom three.

The overarching mistake of this season was not the decision to sack Pulis or even the timing, it was the decision to appoint Alan Pardew as his successor.

Pulis was a necessity for Albion, an essential by-product following years of struggle trying to deal with the departure of technical director Dan Ashworth.

Ashworth’s shadow looms large at The Hawthorns, and when the club were unable to replace him adequately, they were forced to turn to the ultimate firefighter and an old-school manager to save their top-tier status.

But even though Pulis left behind an unbalanced squad with a plethora of defensive midfielders – a problem magnified by injuries to James Morrison and Chadli – he still left behind a stronger squad than the one he inherited and one more than capable of staying in the Premier League.

His successor had a lot to work with, but the problem is, his successor shirked the work.

Gareth Barry and Jonny Evans were two senior players involved in the Barcelona episode. (AMA)

Pardew is destined to go down as one of the worst managers in Albion’s history.

He attempted to throw the shackles off, but as plenty of players have now revealed, he neglected to direct the team on how to do this.

Results barely picked up and after nearly three years of seeing balls pumped up to an isolated Salomon Rondon, a more attacking style was given more praise than perhaps it deserved.

An encouraging January that included three wins (although just one in the league) was ruined by the decision to drop a red-hot Jay Rodriguez for Daniel Sturridge.

But Pardew’s insistence on an ill-fated trip to Barcelona that ended in four senior players allegedly stealing a taxi should have spelled the end.

Alan Pardew. (AMA)

The men who appointed him – chairman John Williams, chief executive Martin Goodman, and technical director Nick Hammond – have all subsequently lost their jobs.

They deserve to shoulder plenty of the blame for choosing Pardew, although Hammond was advising that his former Reading colleague needed to go long before he did.

Chinese owner Guochuan Lai can be forgiven for giving the board the bullet, particularly after they overstretched in the summer transfer market and left the club in an overdraft following purchases that didn’t pay off like the £15m spent on Oliver Burke.

But the timing of the owner’s Knight of the Long Knives didn’t help matters.

Williams and Goodman went after the Chelsea game, when Pardew had only lost three of the nine matches he would lose in a row, but they were already seriously considering his future pre-Barcelona because he’d taken the club to the foot of the table.

Albion owner Guochuan Lai, right, axed chairman John Williams, left. (AMA)

Chief executive Mark Jenkins returned at that stage and so he could be forgiven for taking a couple of weeks to assess the situation.

He walked into a burning building. The same week he returned, the squad were up to no good in the early hours of the morning in Spain.

Whether Williams would have acted after that episode, we will never know.

It’s worth remembering Jenkins was thrown in at the deep end, and the pool was full of sewage, but he and Lai should have reacted quicker.

Pardew was given six more games after Barcelona, all of which he lost.

He should have been sacked after the 2-1 defeat at home to Huddersfield – when the home fans turned.

He had to go after the 4-1 home defeat to Leicester – when the players gave up. But still he stayed.

Chief executive Mark Jenkins. (AMA)

The players, too, are to blame for underperforming for far too long this season and seeing off two completely different head coaches with contrasting styles.

Albion broke a club record this season for their longest winless streak, and it came under three managers, whether permanent or interim.

In the end, Pardew left by mutual consent after he himself acknowledged he was failing.

Darren Moore’s remarkable achievements as caretaker boss since then may have delayed the inevitable until the final week, but it has also proven the board accepted relegation far too early.

And ultimately, at the end of a season, you get what you deserve.

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