REVEALED: Slaven Bilic exit was inevitable after rift with West Brom chief Luke Dowling with pair falling out over club’s limited transfer budget
- West Brom have confirmed Sam Allardyce as their new first team manager
- ‘Big Sam’s’ appointment comes in the aftermath of Slaven Bilic’s shock sacking
- Bilic was axed from the role despite an impressive 1-1 draw with Manchester City
Soaked in champagne and bursting with joy, Slaven Bilic marched around the Hawthorns pitch and immediately started making plans for the Premier League.
The day was July 22 and his West Bromwich Albion team had just secured the point they needed for promotion after a nervy 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers.
Fast forward less than five months and Bilic is out of a job. To the casual observer, this may seem a surprise — Albion are far from cut adrift in the relegation scrap, and Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City was another spirited effort. Given the resources available, it is hard to see how the Croat could have done much better.
Slaven Bilic has been replaced by Sam Allardyce as manager of West Bromwich Albion
Bilic’s departure has been inevitable due to a breakdown in relations with Luke Dowling (R)
Yet Sportsmail can reveal Bilic’s departure has been inevitable due to a breakdown in relations with Luke Dowling, the club’s sporting and technical director.
The sale of Ahmed Hegazi to Saudi club Al-Ittihad in October brought the rift into the public eye but the tension had been bubbling at the training ground ever since Bilic learned he would have just £25million, plus whatever he could generate from player sales, to spend on new signings for the top flight. Compare that with Leeds, who spent almost £100m on players.
West Brom argue that Bilic always knew his resources would be limited; Bilic would counter that he didn’t realise the extent to which they would be. Why else would he have mentioned Ollie Watkins and Eberechi Eze as targets? Watkins ultimately went to Aston Villa from Brentford for a fee that could reach £33m; Eze left QPR for Crystal Palace for £16m.
By the time West Brom finally made their move for Eze, the 22-year-old had already decided he would join Palace, even though he had been aware of Bilic’s interest two months earlier.
Bilic felt those above him did not share his sense of urgency when it came to strengthening
Bilic knew from the moment Albion won promotion that the squad needed strengthening, and felt those above him did not share his sense of urgency.
Filip Krovinovic was only re-signed for a second season loan from Benfica three games into the new campaign, while Karlan Grant wanted to leave Huddersfield for Albion at the end of last season but only did so in mid-October.
Other signings, notably goalkeeper David Button and defender Cedric Kipre, were not specific Bilic targets.
Allardyce replaces Slaven Bilic, who was sacked in the aftermath of a draw with Man City
Part of the problem has been an absence of leadership: Bilic never met the club’s owner, Guochuan Lai, and the new chief executive, Xu Ke, has little football experience.
What has worried the hierarchy, though, is the nosedive in form since football resumed in June after the first lockdown. Albion stumbled over the line to automatic promotion, winning just three of their final nine matches.
The new manager has a fighting chance of survival and a squad with some promising talent, notably on-loan Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher and defender Semi Ajayi. Yet with little money available in January it will be no easy task to improve on what Bilic did.
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