Sam Allardyce secured his return to Premier League management at the age of 66 on Wednesday, taking over at West Bromwich Albion where he has been handed a familiar task: saving a struggling team from relegation.
The former England coach was hired as the replacement for Slaven Bilic, just hours after the Croatian became the first manager in this season’s Premier League to be fired.
Allardyce, who has been out of work since leaving Everton in May 2018, takes charge of a top-flight team for a record eighth time in his career and will have to justify his reputation for being a survival specialist.
West Brom is in next-to-last place in the Premier League after collecting only seven points from its opening 13 games in its first season back in the top division. A 1-1 draw at Manchester City on Tuesday was arguably West Brom’s best result of the season, but was not enough to save Bilic.
Allardyce has an ability to get a team organized quickly, especially defensively, and has yet to be relegated from the Premier League. Blackburn, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Everton are among the clubs “Big Sam” — as he is often fondly called — has steered to safety after being in perilous positions when he joined.
“In Sam, we have a man who has a proven Premier League pedigree with a track record of improving every club he has managed,” West Brom’s sporting and technical director, Luke Dowling, said.
“We believe and, more importantly, Sam believes we have a group of players that have the quality needed to give the club its best chance of Premier League survival.”
West Brom’s hard-working performance at City suggested so, too.
Its next game is at Aston Villa on Sunday, when Allardyce will take control of the team for the first time. He has signed an 18-month deal and will take training for the first time on Thursday.
Bilic was in charge at West Brom for 18 months, leading the team to promotion from the Championship at the end of his first season as its manager. After struggling to sign any top-quality players in the offseason, West Brom has found the transition to the Premier League hard, winning only one match — against last-place Sheffield United — and conceding a league-high 26 goals.
Bilic was also unhappy about the club sanctioning the sale of Egypt center back Ahmed Hegazi in October, despite him saying he didn’t want the player to leave.
“Albion would like to thank Slaven and his coaching staff for their efforts in achieving promotion last season and wishes them all well in the future,” the club said, after also announcing the departure of Bilic’s assistants, Dean Računica and Danilo Butorović.
The draw at City was Bilic’s 100th Premier League game as a manager. Afterward, he said he was “calm” amid widespread reports he was about to be fired.
“To be fair, I’m not bothered,” he said. “I’m doing my job. I’m enjoying it. I’m working hard for myself, for my staff, for the players, for the club, that’s all.”
Bilic, a former player and coach of Croatia’s national team, was fired by Premier League club West Ham in 2017 after 2 1/2 years in charge.
He also has coached Hajduk Split, Lokomotiv Moscow, Besiktas and Saudi Arabian team Al-Ittihad.
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