West Brom have confirmed the sacking of head coach Valerien Ismael after just seven months in charge, with former player Enzo Maresca a serious contender to replace him.
Ismael has departed following two successive Championship defeats, which left the Baggies fifth, eight points adrift of the automatic promotion places.
West Brom, who failed to score in both losses to Millwall and Preston, had received a further setback when new striker Daryl Dike was ruled out by injury.
The Frenchman, who was told of his sacking on Wednesday, won just 12 of his 31 matches in charge and the Albion board felt the poor run of results was unacceptable for a club with aspirations for promotion this season.
The club announced Ismael had left his position in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, which read: „West Bromwich Albion Football Club can confirm Valerien Ismael has today left his position as head coach.
„Assistant head coach Adam Murray has also departed The Hawthorns.
„The club would like to place on record its thanks to Valerien and Adam for their efforts and wishes them well in the future.
„The process of recruiting a new head coach is now under way and an appointment will be announced in due course.“
West Bromwich Albion Football Club can confirm Valérien Ismaël has today left his position as head coach.
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) February 2, 2022
Maresca a serious contender to replace Ismael
There is no immediate rush for West Brom to appoint Ismael’s successor, with their next match a week away at Sheffield United in the Championship on Wednesday night.
But Sky Sports News has been told former West Brom midfielder Maresca is a serious contender for the managerial vacancy.
The 41-year-old would be a popular choice with the fans, having started his playing career at The Hawthorns in 1998 before enjoying a glittering career with Juventus, Olympiakos, Sevilla, Fiorentina and Sampdoria.
The Italian was a former coach at West Ham and Manchester City and is out of work after being sacked by Parma in November.
But Albion plan to talk to a number of potential candidates over the coming days before making a decision on Ismael’s replacement.
Meanwhile, former Baggies midfielder James Morrison took first-team training on Wednesday and will continue to do so, with support from others inside the club, until a new head coach is appointed.
Gourlay appointed new West Brom CEO
There has also been a change in the club’s hierarchy.
Xu Ke will step down from his role as chief executive to become a non-executive director, with Ron Gourlay replacing him as CEO with immediate effect.
The former Chelsea, Manchester United and Reading executive has huge experience in the game and will be in charge of the day-to-day running of the club.
The 59-year-old will also work closely with controlling shareholder Guochuan Lai, who replaces Li Piyue as Albion chairman.
Gourlay said: „I am proud and honoured to be named chief executive officer of this historic football club. I am aware of the issues we currently face, but I am not one to shy away from a challenge, and I am confident that by making both positive and necessary changes we will, in time, have the club back on track.
„During my short time here as a consultant I have seen and felt the disconnect between the club and its supporters and I will work tirelessly to rectify that. Open dialogue with fans will play a key part in rebuilding trust and I intend to communicate with supporters and the media on a regular basis.
„At boardroom level I intend to appoint directors with a wealth of football and business experience, who will have the knowledge and commitment required to take the club forward. In my conversations with Guochuan Lai during his recent visit we agreed the club needs to make significant changes in order to succeed. Some of these changes will take time to implement but they will all be in the best interests of the club.
„Our aim both in the short and long term is to be in the Premier League, but I recognise many of the issues at the club run deeper than which division we are playing in. The club requires a strategy for the future and once I have established an experienced board of directors, who can lead the many excellent staff already at the club, I will outline my plans to supporters in the coming weeks.
„Successes during my time here will be measured by how fans feel about the club they clearly love, and when the atmosphere at The Hawthorns has returned to the level for which it is famous, I will know we are on the right track.
„My immediate priority is to now appoint a new head coach following the departure of Valerien Ismael. I would like to personally thank Val for his efforts and I wish him well in the future.“