Alan Irvine’s position as West Bromwich Albion head coach appears to be in the balance after his side’s slide towards the Premier League relegation zone continued with a seventh defeat in nine matches.
The 56-year-old Scot admitted before the trip to Stoke that he feared for his job and he now waits to see if chairman Jeremy Peace is prepared to give him one more chance with the trip to West Ham on New Year’s Day.
With West Bromwich just one point above the bottom three, however, Peace might decide to follow the lead of Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish and cut his losses with Irvine, just as Palace did with Neil Warnock in the wake of the Boxing Day defeat against Southampton.
The second Stoke goal here came through a substantial slice of luck – of the bad kind for Irvine – but Albion fans made no allowance for that as they made their feelings clear at the final whistle.
Booing and abuse accompanied the manager as he walked past the visiting supporters towards the tunnel, although he showed no reaction and handled difficult questions with characteristic dignity as he was asked about his position afterwards. “The reaction of the crowd is difficult to take but I can understand their frustrations,” Irvine said. “I am frustrated, as are the players. But it’s not really about me. I’m more concerned about the players because it was a difficult result for them to take. Against Manchester City on Boxing Day there were individual errors but here they made no such mistakes.
“I hope I’m still in the job for the New Year but I’m not in control of that so I don’t know. I have just got to get on with it, there is no other choice.
“I still feel I am capable of turning things round and I think the players believe that too. I want to do this job and see things through and that is not going to change but it is for other people to make those decisions.”
Heads dropped among the Albion players after Mame Biram Diouf scored the second of his two second-half goals in the 66th minute, the Senegal striker deflecting the ball past West Bromwich goalkeeper Ben Foster more through luck than intention, after a shot by Marko Arnautovic hit him as he made a run into the Albion box.
It was an unfortunate moment, yet in truth, once they had gone behind to Diouf’s first goal in the 51st minute, Albion’s composure deserted them and their confidence in their ability to stave off another defeat seemed to drain.
For that first goal, Diouf deserved all of the credit. Bojan Krkic, again Stoke’s most influential player until he was taken off late in the game after feeling tightness in a hamstring, released Erik Pieters down the left and when the full-back’s low cross arrived in the penalty area, evading defenders Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt, Diouf drew the ball onto his right foot, creating space to drill a low shot wide of Foster and into the net.
McAuley hit the post at the other end as Albion tried to respond but they could not match their football of the first half, when they had created more chances than the home side, albeit mostly shots from long range.
Irvine’s counterpart, Mark Hughes, had the satisfaction of winning back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season after his side’s Boxing Day win at Everton. The Stoke manager said: “We are a team that can consistently be in the top half if we all do our jobs and we want to stay there for the rest of the season.”Reuse content