Today it was announced that West Bromwich Albion have relieved Head Coach Roberto Di Matteo of his job and placed him on gardening leave with immediate effect .
Chairman Jeremy Peace said “This has been a tough decision, But we, as a board, believe it is the right one to give the club the best possible chance of remaining in the Premier League." fficeffice" />
In a season of ridiculous sackings, this may be the most stupid of the lot. West Brom are a newly promoted team that are currently just above the relegation places (they haven't been in the bottom three since the first game) and have an excellent chance of survival. What else did the West Brom board expect? That they should be title contenders? Do they think that when Di Matteo had them in the top 4 earlier this season that was the position they should finish in?
For all newly promoted teams, consolidating their position in the league should be the realistic goal for their first season. Anything better than that is a bonus. The days where a team can get promoted and become a title contender immediately have gone.
This decision has panic written all over it. West Brom lost yesterday away to Manchester City. Not a bottom of the table side, not a six-pointer against battling relegation. A title contender, away. It looks as though the defeat seemed to be the final straw for the board, who evidently expected a win.
Granted, results lately have been poor, with them losing 13 from their last 18, winning only three. But surely the West Brom hierarchy expected that kind of bad run of results was a probability and allowed for it? Evidently not.
Di Matteo seems to be paying the price for overachieving since he took charge. He got West Brom promoted the first time of asking. He had West Brom playing good passing football and climbing the Premier League table. He was named manager of the month in September. He even had West Brom in the top 4 at one point. He led his team to impressive away wins at the Emirates and Goodison Park and a draw at Old Trafford. He did all of this without having a lot of funds at his disposal.
What’s even worse was that they haven’t even had the decency to sack him, they’ve put him ‘gardening leave’ avoid having to pay compensation. Di Matteo is now left in limbo. He's niether employed nor unemployed.
If the board were serious about making a change in order to stay up, why did they wait until the transfer window was shut? Why not have either backed Di Matteo with funds or got rid of him earlier and got someone else in time to make some signings?
The question is, of the experienced managers out there, who would be willing to come to a club where they wouldn’t be able to sign anybody and have some real weaknesses in the squad, without much time to turn things around? Sam Allardyce is the name being mentioned, but I don’t think he’d want to risk his reputation on what would be a big gamble. Same goes for Roy Hodgson, Chris Hughton or Martin O’Neill. The big danger is that they might end up with someone like Iain Dowie, like Hull did last season and end up worse off.
Unless West Brom already have someone good lined up, this has disaster written all over it. West Brom’s Chairman and board seem to have panicked when the going got tough. Rather than backing their manager (and themselves for appointing him), they’ve sent him away. Unless they find the right man, they face the prospect of relegation, avoiding which was the reason for removing Di Matteo in the first place.
I’ve been impressed by the way West Brom have played in their recent spells in the Premier League, under Di Matteo and Tony Mowbray. It seems as though the powers that be as the Baggies want to stay up at any cost, so West Broms standard and style of football may deteriorate, and that would be a crying shame.