West Brom comment: Why Slaven Bilic fits the bill for the Baggies
Slaven Bilic is set to be the man to take on the Albion job with the club expected to make his appointment imminently.
On the face of it, the 50-year-old firebrand is exactly the sort of passionate character the Baggies are crying out for.
Exuberance has been in short supply in The Hawthorns dugout recently.
Tony Pulis hopped up and down as if his technical area was filled with burning coals, but his pragmatic football divided a fanbase that slowly turned its back.
Darren Moore exuded a calming presence on the touchline, but he rarely got the juices flowing in the press conference. Alan Pardew never got the results to back up the charm offensive.
Jimmy Shan was professionalism personified, and spoke both succinctly and well, but was seen by many on the outside – perhaps unfairly – as just the caretaker.
Bilic is more unpredictable than all of those, a character capable of carrying the fanbase along the next phase of this journey.
He is the sexy appointment, a name of some repute and one that could carry both weight and influence in the transfer market.
It’s certainly a different approach to Middlesbrough and Swansea, the two other Championship promotion hopefuls looking for managers this summer.
Boro are replacing Pulis with fledgling boss Jonathan Woodgate, the Swans are bringing in England’s under-17 coach Steve Cooper. After last season though, Albion were never going to appoint another rookie because clubs often try the opposite route to what’s gone before.
It’s also five years since the Baggies went foreign, and hopefully Pepe Mel’s forlorn four-month reign is not a foreshadow of things to come under Bilic.
They are, of course, two completely different characters and it’s obvious Albion hope Bilic can be the Championship Klopp.
But there is more to being a head coach than just charisma and style. Bilic was a revelation at international level, and enjoyed six largely-successful years with Croatia.
He helped revive the national side, bringing through talent like Luka Modric and Eduardo, and reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 despite missing his star striker.
His club career has been mixed. There were teething problems in his first job after Croatia, when he guided Lokomotiv Moscow to ninth place, their worst finish since the Russian Championship was established in 1992.
He then took Besiktas to back-to-back third-placed finishes in Turkey before joining West Ham, where he initially enjoyed success.
In Bilic’s first season at Upton Park, the Hammers finished seventh with 62 points, their highest ever total in the Premier League.
It earned West Ham passage to the Europa League qualifiers, although they were eliminated before the group stage.
West Ham finished 11th in his second season before he was sacked in November the following campaign with the Hammers in the relegation zone.
Critics argued he was a motivator rather than a tactician, and a leaky defence eventually caught up with him.
But he was presented with plenty of off-field challenges after his first season due to the disastrous move to the London Stadium and the ongoing rift between the club and star player Dimitri Payet.
They were tricky circumstances to work under.
Keen for a break after that, he didn’t get back into football until September last year, when he took over struggling Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ittihad.
He couldn’t turn their fortunes around, but presumably earned a small fortune in the process.
Now though, he is ready to return to the cut and thrust of English football, and for the first time, could experience the relentless grind of the Championship.
Perhaps most importantly, he is eager to take on Albion’s structural rebuild, to help mould the squad into his image.
He’s keen on the long-term project now facing the Baggies, and appears to have the sort of strong-willed character capable of navigating the tricky summer ahead.
Only time will tell how shrewd this appointment is if it happens, but there’s no doubt it would certainly be an exciting one.