For Sam Allardyce, a return to the Premier League after an absence of two and a half years should have been a moment to savor.
When his appointment as West Bromwich Albion manager was confirmed on Wednesday, there had certainly been personal euphoria for a man who surely had to wonder if the call would return.
But five minutes into his first game, as Aston Villa opened the scoring in a game that went from bad to worse for the Baggies, he was perhaps wondering if he had been better off.
Obviously, Sunday’s 3-0 loss was itself of concern, but there was also the fact that his new team had only registered one shot on goal. And there was Captain Jake Livermore kicked out for recklessly shooting Jack Grealish.
And then, at the end of the game, a reminder that the next step is a trip to Anfield to face an undefeated home side Liverpool in the league since April 2017.
It was an utterly sad evening for a manager entering uncharted territory. Of course, Allardyce knows his way into a relegation fight, but he’s the first new Premier League fixture this season and therefore the first to try and galvanize a fanless side to help the new manager bounce back.
When Allardyce, wearing the mandatory face mask, got off the second of two coaches who stopped outside the Hawthorns 90 minutes before kick-off, there was no reaction. The only people to witness his arrival at his new club were half a dozen stewards. The only support for Smethwick End has come from the orange-robed stewards in the lower level and a handful of club staff in the upper.
If this was really the start of one of those famous Allardyce survival scraps against all odds, this was a pretty miserable way to start.
What can West Brom expect from Allardyce?
There is no magic formula here. West Brom has collected just one point in their last four games. They are at the second bottom of the table. Their position is dire.
Allardyce isn’t the tactical Neanderthal his critics like to play. The team he built at Bolton did not draw with Bayern Munich and beat Atletico Madrid on their way to the last 16 UEFA Cup games continuing to throw the ball into the pitch. Jay-Jay Okocha was one of the most creative Premier League players of his time.
But the 66-year-old likes the structure. His short-term plan was outlined ahead of kick-off in notes in the schedule that many Baggies fans presumably mailed them to them to be invested in their club games at a time when they were not. can’t actually go and watch them play.
“I want to know why the players think they haven’t got the results they think they deserve,” he said.
“Small moments can define your season. If you focus when those little moments come along and stop the mistakes, then you stop conceding goals. This is the ultimate goal for me at the start. “
Obviously, conceding in the fifth minute to a routine wide cross doesn’t meet Allardyce’s criteria. “It was a simple cross, we let their man enter our six-meter box. “
He was not impressed.
The problem is obvious. Prior to Leeds imploding at Old Trafford earlier on Sunday, West Brom had the elite’s worst defense by far. So far this season, two teams have conceded seven in one game and now two have conceded six. Neither team is West Brom.
But they give too many goals, too often.
However, while the comparison may be unfair, for many supporters Allardyce’s plan is too much of the Tony Pulis era for their liking – a period when they felt the fun was being sucked into their team and, ultimately, account, did not even have the safety compensation, although the Welshman was sacked before that became a reality in the spring of 2018.
How big is their job to maintain them?
The size of this task cannot be underestimated.
In the era of the Premier League, no club with less than eight points after 14 games has remained in place. It was West Brom’s 14th game. They have seven points, three of safety but with a worse goal difference.
The Baggies are conceding too many goals and not scoring enough, which tends to be fatal.
It was the seventh time they had failed to score – and they only kept two clean sheets. They haven’t scored more than once in a game since losing a three-goal lead against Chelsea on September 26.
Loan midfielder Conor Gallagher and Callum Robinson are their top scorers, with two. Karlan Grant, for whom former boss Slaven Bilic persuaded West Brom to pay Huddersfield £ 15million on the deadline, found the net for the only time against Brighton, in his second game on October 26.
Allardyce has his work cut out for him.
Will Allardyce be greeted by Baggies fans?
Without supporters in the stadium, it is difficult to gauge. But reliable barometers of the Baggies’ fortunes are wary of Allardyce’s arrival.
It’s not because they have anything against the former England boss – or that they wish Bilic hadn’t been sacked. Although the Croatian was highly regarded, it is admitted that for almost a year the results were in a downward spiral.
What worries them is that Allardyce’s arrival is not seen as part of owner Guochuan Lai’s larger plan, but rather to stay in the Premier League to maximize the chances of a sale. potential.
There has been no financial contribution from the owner since he bought the club in August 2016 and there is no indication that will change. He does not attend matches and although he has regular contact with his board of directors, it makes no sense that he understands what club supporters are looking for from an owner, let alone willing to him. deliver.
And that’s a problem.
Sunday’s loss was only the second time Allardyce has lost his first Premier League game as a coach. The first came to Crystal Palace – which were in a situation similar to West Brom now – and where it took him six games to secure a first league victory.
Palace’s response has been to give Allardyce £ 30million to spend on Luka Milivojevic, Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp. This triggered the improvement that kept Palace going.
He is unlikely to receive similar funds in January.
Are they now more likely to stay awake?
Allardyce has said that after his appointment he does not want to end his record of never being relegated from the Premier League.
Whether moaning at the fourth official after Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez escaped without as much as a yellow card for an early handball outside the box, putting his head in his hands to another mistake or the way fierce in which he handled the aftermath of Livermore’s red card, he has shown he is ready for battle.
“I am upset by the red card,” he said. “It was reckless and he will be fined.
“He apologized but I won’t accept another eviction no matter what. Someone else must be captain now because Jake is suspended for three games. It depends on who can handle the armband but they can keep it for me. “
Allardyce is a pragmatist. He said he could understand the fans who watched his opening night and saw nothing to give them hope that relegation will be avoided.
But he thinks otherwise, and he congratulated the 10 players who remained at Livermore for fighting for more than half of the game.
But, for now, finesse will have to give way to combat if West Brom is to have any chance of extending Allardyce’s darling survival record.
“It’s a victory in 14,” he said. “My first battle is to make sure they don’t lose confidence in their own abilities. Then I have to guide them to make their way out of this position because they cannot play their way. “