Express & Star

Ex-West Brom boss favourite to take up international role

Former Albion promotion-winning boss Slaven Bilic has emerged as the frontrunner to be the next Republic of Ireland manager.


The Croat, 55, is currently in charge of Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Fateh but, according to the Irish Mirror, is in line to take over later this year, after the conclusion of the Saudi league in May.

The Republic are hunting for a successor to Stephen Kenny, who was dismissed last November. Former Blues coach and Manchester United defender John O'Shea was recently placed in temporary charge.

Ireland will not contest in this summer's European Championship after failing to qualify, which played a part in Kenny's exit.

Bilic, who earned the Baggies promotion to the Premier League in the 2019/20 campaign, was appointed as Al-Fateh chief last summer as several star names from the football world were lured to operate in the ambitious big-spending Saudi Pro League.

He previously managed Watford for barely six months until a year ago, having returned to England following a stint at Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan in between managing at The Hawthorns and Vicarage Road.

Bilic spent 18 months in the Black Country and won promotion back to the top flight in his first season in charge as the side finished runners-up in the Covid-disrupted Championship. The former West Ham defender was dismissed in December 2020 with Albion 19th in the Premier League.

Reports suggest Bilic will be offered a four-year deal ahead of a new Nations League campaign, where Ireland will face England, in September. Bilic spent six years in charge of Croatia between 2006 and 2012.

His Saudi side gained a creditable point with a 1-1 draw at Al-Ahli on Saturday and sit seventh in the 18-strong Pro League.