West Brom will enter their third consecutive season as a Premier League club this year, their longest stay in the league to date, at a big 12/1 to prop up the top flight.
Despite achieving a best-ever tenth-place finish last season, much change has ensued at the Hawthorns in the close season, which threatens to have a hugely detrimental effect on this coming campaign.
For a start, former manager Roy Hodgson departed following the final game of last term to take charge of the England national side, indicating what a terrific job he did in charge of the Baggies.
In Steve Clarke, his replacement is a man who, although widely respected as a coach, has no actual previous experience as a full-time manager, barring a one-game stint as Newcastle caretaker boss in 1999.
Clarke lost that match 5-1 and while little should be read into that result, there are several examples of highly-rated coaches failing to successfully transition into roles as actual managers.
Perhaps the most notable of these has been Brian Kidd, whose wealth of success as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man saw him land the vacant Blackburn managerial post in 1998, ironically replacing Hodgson.
Kidd went on to oversee Rovers’ relegation to the second tier, just four years after they had been crowned Premier League champions.
A former assistant to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Clarke has a similarly rich pedigree in a coaching capacity, but could struggle to replicate his success as the man at the helm.
One of his biggest challenges will be to implement more cutting edge into the Baggies’ play, particularly at home, as only bottom club Wolves and Aston Villa scored less on their own patch last term.
West Brom’s record against top-half sides last term will also be of concern to Clarke, who will recognise that they will need to win more than the three times they did last year against the top sides to dispel fears of justifying 12/1 odds to finish bottom of the Premier League.
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