Valerien Ismael determined to give West Brom an identity

The arrival of a new manager is a fresh start for all football clubs.

Valerien Ismael
Valerien Ismael

But it’s clear Albion want the appointment of Valerien Ismael to be the beginning of a new era.

The 45-year-old met the media for the first time earlier today and was quizzed on a whole host of issues affecting the club.

But what shone through from the Frenchman was his desire to give the Baggies a clear identity and philosophy – something many fans feel has been lacking in recent times.

Ismael is Albion’s sixth boss in four years. And with the last two appointments seeing the club swing from Slaven Bilic to Sam Allardyce – there has clearly been a lack of clear thinking right at the very top.

Ismael, though, arrives with a distinct way of playing.

He is a counter-pressing manager who relies on energy, intensity and winning the ball high up the pitch.

And it’s that clear identity – a DNA if you like – Albion’s board are craving.

Ismael confirmed as much right at the start of his press conference yesterday.

Asked what his number one aim is, he replied: “At the moment it is to implement a philosophy with my staff.

“This is priority number one.

“The first step for me is to know the players and to have an overview of the squad, to give a chance to everyone.

“I want to have an overview of the academy players and which players are able to play and follow us on that way.

“For sure we will need two or three weeks to have an overview and start to make the first decisions.”

Albion’s faith in Ismael was clear as soon as his arrival was confirmed.

The club have appointed him on a four-year contract, something you rarely see in this day and age.

And while the ex-Bayern Munich defender confirmed the target is to ultimately get the club back in the Premier League, he reiterated implementing his philosophy is the first thing on his mind.

When Bilic was appointed, the club gave him two years to get the Baggies into the top flight.

Ismael was also asked if he had been given a time frame to restore Albion to the top flight.

He, though, said that long-term success cannot be achieved without a clear philosophy.

And he made it clear it is his philosophy why chief executive Xu Ke – who is known as Ken – choose him to be the club’s boss.

“It was clear when I met the board – especially Ken – he gave me a clear vision and explained why they chose me,” Ismael said when asked what targets the board has set for him.

“The club wants to put a consistency into the way they play.

“When you have a way to play, you will have success.

“This is what we want to build now with West Brom.

“We want to build a club with an identity, a DNA.

“And with that DNA we want to achieve what everyone wants – to return to the Premier League.”

A manager whose career certainly looks to be on an upward trajectory, it is clear Ismael has an unwavering belief that his methods will bring success.

“I don’t need the most expensive player or the best player – I just need the right player for the position,” he said.

“We need to find the right players, and the next step will be to prepare the guys and be ready to compete.

“It will be all about winning games with consistency. Only when you do that can you achieve your purpose.

“It’s a long way to improve and to develop but the first step on this is to form the squad who are able to compete.”

It has to be said Ismael cut a very impressive figure at his unveiling.

Whether he was asked about philosophies, finances, transfers or targets he took every question in his stride and answered in a cool, calm way.

He was straight-forward, straight-talking, polite and friendly.

But he also cut a figure of a man not to be messed with – with a number of journalists joking they wouldn’t fancy being in the dressing room at half-time if the Baggies weren’t playing well.

What was clear, though, was how comfortable he was answering questions.

The futures of Matheus Pereira and Sam Johnstone were always going to dominate this press conference.

Albion won’t sell either if their valuations aren’t met.

But Ismael expects them to go – and he had no problem saying that.

That leadership – a man who can be the face of the club – is without doubt what Albion are craving.

Baggies fans will always be fearful about the future while Guochuan Lai remains owner.

He is absent, shows no interest and his intentions remain unknown.

And it was telling that only Ian Skidmore – the club’s Head of Communications – was sat next to Ismael at his unveiling.

CEO Ken decided to give this one a miss and with the club now without a director of football, Ismael was short on contemporaries.

Not once, though, did he break sweat.

He knows what he is doing. He knows what direction he wants to take Albion in.

And he has a wonderful confidence that he is going to do it.

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