Six months after thrusting a manager with no prior experience of English football into a relegation fight, West Bromwich Albion have raised eyebrows again with the appointment of Alan Irvine, head of Everton’s academy, as Pepe Mel’s successor.
Tim Sherwood appeared the likeliest candidate to replace the Spaniard but after failing to agree terms with the former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Albion turned instead to Irvine, 55.
In a web poll by a local newspaper, 84 per cent of fans responding were against the appointment of a man whose only previous managerial experiences ended in the sack at both Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday – in the latter case after failing to save the Yorkshire club from relegation to League One.
Yet if it appears another gamble by Albion’s board following their brush with relegation last term, Irvine’s appointment fits the preferred template of a club where the manager’s priority is the coaching side and transfer business must be conducted alongside Terry Burton, the recently installed technical director.
Irvine, like Steve Clarke before him, comes with an impressive coaching CV. The one-time Everton winger worked as David Moyes’ No 2 at Goodison for five seasons, and was considered an outstanding coach and man-manager at Preston. Since 2011 he has maintained the success of Everton’s academy.
“My passion is for coaching and I believe my strength is on the training ground,” said Irvine, who admitted that Albion have work to do to replace the 11 players who have left since the end of the season. “It’s a small squad and the first job is to get some more players in.”
Irvine will bring in Rob Kelly to work as joint assistant head coach alongside Keith Downing.