Only Norwich City has more promotions to the Premier League this century than West Bromwich Albion, and the Baggies will be looking to match the Canaries by going up from the EFL Championship for a sixth time in 20 years this coming season.
To that end, Albion has appointed Barnsley boss Valérien Ismaël following their relegation from the Premier League under Sam Allardyce, which you can read about at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/57180362. This marks a change of tack and direction from West Brom.
Ismaël worked wonders at Barnsley, arriving at Oakwell in October when predecessor Gerhard Struber left to coach the New York Red Bulls after barely keeping the Tykes in the Championship the previous season. Former Crystal Palace defender Ismaël took a side that finished 21st in the league into the play-offs.
Although Barnsley didn’t gain the promotion, they were very close and defied all the odds in making a top-six finish. They also did it in style, which contrasts sharply with the football played at The Hawthorns. Ismaël won’t be flying under the radar anymore.
Perhaps his former club Palace regrets not making a move for him after narrowly missing out on Swiss manager and former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre. It’s with West Brom where Ismaël will be trying to secure an immediate return to the Premier League.
“He looks very ambitious and he has an identity and a way he wants to play.”@dara_oshea_ on his summer, the upcoming campaign and the prospect of playing under Valérien Ismaël 💬
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) June 30, 2021
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Ismaël inherits an Albion side that will be feeling the absence of several senior players including Polish winger Kamil Grosicki, Wales forward Hal Robson-Kanu, defensive duo Branislav Ivanović, and Lee Peltier, as well as veteran goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, as noted on https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/west-brom-albion-contracts-expiring-13571096. West Brom also released many of their up-and-coming players as they trimmed their Academy and Under-23 teams following relegation. Ismaël can call upon quite a few proven Championship performers in forward areas to choose from.
Scottish talent Matt Phillips and Robert Snodgrass are senior players now with Karlan Grant and Matheus Pereira also among those who have done well at this level before. As Ismaël played a three-man defence and wingbacks at Barnsley, Albion will need to recruit for their rearguard as they are thin on the ground.
As they have an established reputation of being a yo-yo club, the Baggies must try and live up to that in the new season. Anything less than a serious promotion push will be regarded as a failure for a promising manager, but for now, it looks as though the Baggies have pulled off a coup coaching capture.