West Brom appoint Pepe Mel: Who is the new manager?

The Spaniard was seen as something of left-field choice to replace Steve Clarke

He looks a little bit like what would happen if Jason Statham ate Martin Jol; but just who is Pepe Mel?

The 50-yard old Spaniard was appointed West Brom manager yesterday, succeeding Steve Clarke, who was sacked in December.

Mel started his playing career as a striker for Real Madrid, but never made it past the youth teams. Similarly ill-fated and goal shy spells at RCD Alaca and Osasuna soon followed before a tiny club just north of Valencia handed him a second chance. 28 goals in 62 appearances for Castellon then attracted the interest of Real Betis, with whom he would enjoy his best years as a player, picking up the Pichichi Trophy (top scorer) in 1990.

After leaving Betis in 1993, he slipped into relative obscurity, journeying Spain and France’s lower leagues to varying levels of success. He eventually hung up his boots in 1998; though his absence from the game would be brief, with Mel embarking upon a management career the very next season. He started small at amateur side Coslada, a club based in his native Madrid; and in 2001, after one year at then second division Real Murcia, he replaced Valencia bound Rafa Benitez in charge of CD Tenerife. It was his first job as a top flight coach, but Mel could not save them from relegation.

In the following seasons, he see-sawed between Spain’s second and third divisions, enduring unsuccessful tenures at Alaves, Poli Ejido and Rayo Vallecano. It was beginning to look bleak before former club Betis handed him their reigns in 2010.

It would seem that Betis was his team, the one he was meant for. A popular choice among fans, he led the club to promotion as champions from the second tier in his first season, and to the comforts of mid-table the year after. In the 2012-2013 season, Mel led Betis to seventh in La Liga and subsequently qualified for the Europa League.

But a turn for the worse this season would see him sacked in early December, with Betis rooted firmly to the bottom of the table. The decision, however, was not necessarily a welcome one. Still held in high esteem by most fans, there can be no overlooking what Mel had achieved in the last three years.

In a very short space of time, Mel transformed Betis from a stagnant second division side into Europa League contestants. Committed to an attractive brand of passing and possession football, what he delivered must have been beyond even the most optimistic supporter’s expectations on such a paltry, shoestring budget.

Much of Mel’s success at Betis centered around a highly organised midfield, owed largely to two players, who due to financial constraints, he was forced to sell – Benat who joined Bilbao and Jose Canas now at Swansea. West Brom are blessed with a particularly talented midfield pairing in the shape of Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu which might help Mel to achieve his preferred style.   

Beyond the pitch though, the appeal of Mel is in his candour. He is not a manager to shift blame or make excuses for poor results and interacts directly with the fans. After a heavy loss to Atletico Madrid last October, Betis’ training ground was invaded by an angry mob. Mel did not shirk or hide from their complaints, he took the time to answer them, building a positive and constructive rapport. His teary farewell press conference was by no stretch insincere – Mel is a passionate manager, whose transparency in the Premier League would be a nice change.

Some Baggies fans might feel Mel was the cheap option, having been linked with some more well-known coaches, namely Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Malky Mackay; but his record at Betis against the backdrop of financial ruin, makes the Spaniard fully deserving of this chance.  

Mel will take charge of his first game at home to Roberto Martinez' Everton on 20 January.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz