West Brom seem a certain candidate to drop straight back down to the Championship.
They sit ten points adrift with only nine games left to play, so barring any surprise comeback, the Baggies ought to be preparing for life in the second division.
That now gives sporting and technical director Luke Dowling plenty to think about – is Sam Allardyce the right man to bring them back up?
Given that is something he hasn’t done since winning the playoffs with West Ham in 2012, you’d have to say there must be better candidates out there. And the Midlands side do have a break clause should they get relegated under the 66-year-old.
If that comes sooner rather than later, then it may be best to put him on gardening leave whilst they sort out who should take them forward – very much like the club did with Alan Pardew last time they faced relegation.
One name that has started to crop up is a man familiar to the Hawthorns, Lincoln City boss Michael Appleton.
According to The Athletic’s Steve Madeley, the 45-year-old is an ‘obvious contender.’ He’s a former colleague of Dowling’s and of course managed Albion’s U23 squad prior to his move to Sincil Bank.
And now those calls have been ramped up even more after former Birmingham Mail journalist Chris Lepkowski spoke about his credentials on the recent The Liquidator podcast.
He said: “I’ve always been really impressed by Michael Appleton. He’s a very progressive coach, he doesn’t rest and he’s not a [Tony] Pulis, he has evolved as a manager and introduced different styles,” before adding: “I know he’s worked with Luke Dowling before, quite harmoniously I believe which certainly helps his credentials in that respect. “I would be quite excited to see what he would offer.”
It’s an interesting case to make.
Appleton’s Imps outfit are in contention for promotion from League One this season. They’re currently sat in fourth place behind some big names in Sunderland and Hull City.
Only two other teams have scored more goals this season (53), whilst their defensive record (37 goals conceded) is amongst the top seven too.
WhoScored list Lincoln’s strengths as being very strong at counter attacks as well as being strong at finishing scoring chances, coming back from losing positions and protecting the lead.
This merely reinforces the view that Appleton is indeed quite a progressive coach, and certainly isn’t one like the defensively-minded and outdated Tony Pulis.
What makes him even more intriguing is the fact that he has worked with so many of the players still at the club, as prior to his appointment as U23 manager, he was first-team coach under caretaker Jimmy Shan.
So not only will youngsters like Dara O’Shea, Kyle Edwards and Rekeem Harper benefit from his appointment, but so should the likes of Conor Townsend, Kyle Bartley, Hal Robson-Kanu, Matty Phillips and Jake Livermore, who have all been here for several seasons now.
Appleton, unlike many other potential candidates, will know exactly what it means to be part of West Brom and should be able to connect with the fanbase – something that only really Slaven Bilic has done in the past few seasons.
He may not have the relevant experience at Championship level, but he’s still young and given everything mentioned above, there surely cannot be a more perfect candidate out there.
Dowling should be all over this in the summer.
AND in other news, Sam Allardyce repeating a big Slaven Bilic mistake at West Brom