West Brom appoint Pepe Mel: Premier League strugglers gamble on former Real Betis manager

The 50-year-old was the club's 'No 1 candidate' to replace Steve Clarke

West Bromwich Albion have confirmed Pepe Mel as their new head coach on an 18-month contract.

The 50-year-old Spaniard moves to The Hawthorns as a permanent replacement for Steve Clarke, who was sacked last month. Mel's most recent job was with Real Betis, who dispensed of his services on 2 December.

Mel's greatest crime in Andalusia was to fail to live up to the success of last season, with a seventh-placed finish earning Betis a Europa League spot after he had won promotion to La Liga in 2011. A heavy 4-0 loss to city rivals Seville essentially saw him off but he has been out of work for less than six weeks.

Albion opened talks with Mel at the end of last month but his insistence on bringing in his own back-room staff stalled negotiations. The club were also linked with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and former Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf before succeeding in agreeing terms with Mel

The Albion sporting and technical director Richard Garlick said on the club's official website: "I'm delighted to welcome Pepe to the club.

"His appointment concludes an extensive recruitment process during which we have cast the net far and wide to identify the most suitable candidate to take the club forward.

"Pepe was a strong contender from the outset due to his impressive achievements and has emerged as our No 1 candidate. He is a forward-thinking coach, whose teams are renowned for playing an attractive and positive style of football."

Keith Downing and Dean Kiely, who have led Albion with some credit for the five games since Clarke's departure, are to assist Mel, whose coaching CV also lists the likes of Alaves and Getafe.

The pair will be on the touchline for the game at Southampton tomorrow, with Mel in the stands at St Mary's. He will take charge for the first time for the home game with Everton on 20 January.

Garlick added: "The board is extremely grateful to Keith, the coaching staff and players for their efforts over the past month. Keith will have an important role to play in supporting Pepe as he coaches in England for the first time."

Mel takes over a side out of the FA and League cups and 14th in the Premier League, some four points off the relegation zone.

Man of many clubs: Mel's career history

28 Feb 1963 Born in Madrid

1974-87 Joins Real Madrid youth but fails to play for the first team before moving to Osasuna

1989-93 Helps Real Betis to promotion, scoring 14 goals in single top-flight season.

1993-97 Plays for several minor clubs before retirement. 1999-2002 Coaches Merida and Murcia, then replaces Rafael Benitez at Tenerife.

2003-05 Spells with Getafe and Alaves in Brazil.

2006-10 Returns home to lead Rayo Vallecano to promotion.

2010-13 Joins Real Betis, wins Segunda Division then clinches Europa League place before getting the sack in December with Betis bottom of La Liga.

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