Four Reasons West Brom Must Keep Pepe Mel
Is he staying? Is he leaving? Will the club offer him a new contract extension? There’s been plenty of speculation over Pepe Mel’s future at West Bromwich Albion, but I put forward four points in favour of sticking with him…
Primary objective of survival reached
Mel walked into West Brom with the club hanging precariously above the relegation zone (16th), the supporters bemoaning results and players looking like they just wanted the season to close already. No doubt, chairman Jeremy Peace’s instruction to Mel was a very clear one: steer this team to Premier League safety. And he’s done it, although not mathematically but very realistically, with two games to spare. Key victories against Swansea, Norwich and West Ham have lifted Albion out of the relegation scrap and into a relatively safe position of 16th. The transition from Steve Clarke to Mel hasn’t been an extraordinarily easy one, but gradually the players have responded and adhered to the Spaniard and he should be given huge credit for what he’s done thus far. We were staring relegation in the face under Clarke and I fear nothing would have changed would he have carried on in charge.
Allow the bond between manager and fans to grow
It is known that Mel forged a positive relationship with Real Betis fans whilst he was managing in Spain, and he’s already proved a big hit at Albion. This is a sincere, genuine, likeable guy who is clearly trying his best to fit into what is a completely new culture to him. Reports suggest his grasp of the English language is growing and growing, he has stated in a recent press conference that he wanted to stay put and – this is the important bit – the vast majority of fans want him here next season too. It’s hard not to gravitate towards him for just little things like wandering over to the fans and applauding them – lose, draw or win – and congratulating all of his players out on the pitch at full-time, means he cares. You can see he’s genuinely disappointed when we lose, and genuinely delighted when we win. Under Clarke there was no such cohesion between him and the fans, it was full-time and straight down the tunnel. I think it’s crucial to allow this nascent, developing bond to grow and blossom.
Summer approaching: let him bring in his own players
He’s trying to implement a fast-paced pressing philosophy into a team which wasn’t built to run, run, run, but to soak up pressure and counter-attack. If Mel is to be given a contract extension, then Peace must enable him to bring in players who fit his style and most probably speak his first language. Indeed, it’s going to be a summer of massive overhaul as decisions will have to be made on loan players (do they return to parent club, or do they join permanently) and senior players with contracts up (do they get released, or do they sign on). The whole team will be undertaking a restructure and it depends if Peace & Co. want Mel in charge of such an operation. We’ve already been linked in newspapers with Joel Campbell and Ruben Castro, two attackers who Mel knows well from his time at Betis. From looking at social media and forums, the general consensus is that Mel should be given the summer to rebuild, reinvest and have a proper go in the forthcoming season.
Who else is out there anyway?
It’s an appropriate question. Let’s think about it; if Mel was to be waved goodbye then who would there be, realistically, out there in the managerial market? Tim Sherwood was linked a couple of months back but he’s a temperamental, relatively inexperienced coach and someone who Peace would never go for. Malky Mackay is a very good man and coach but it doesn’t appear like he wants to go straight back into management anytime soon. David Moyes has been a name touted but reports are linking him with Newcastle. None of these seem a better proposition than keeping Mel at the club, with the possible exception of Moyes (yes, I know it didn’t work out at United) because he has a point to prove and tends to excel at ‘underdog’ type clubs as shown at Preston and Everton. But there aren’t many managers out there and it’s not really a process that Peace wants to be going through, for he would have to pay Mel compensation if he sacked him.