West Bromwich Albion last night confirmed Pepe Mel as their new head coach on an 18-month contract.
The 50-year-old Spaniard moves to the Hawthorns as a permanent replacement for Steve Clarke, after the Scot was sacked last month.
Mel’s most recent job was with Real Betis, who dispensed of his services on 2 December. His greatest crime in Andalusia was to fail to live up to the success of last season, with a seventh-placed finish earning them a Europa League spot.
A heavy 4-0 loss to rivals Sevilla essentially saw him off but he has been out of work for less than six weeks, with Albion identifying him as the man they wanted.
Sporting and technical director Richard Garlick said on the club’s website: “I’m delighted to welcome Pepe to the club.
“His appointment concludes an extensive recruitment process during which we have cast the net far and wide to identify the most suitable candidate to take the club forward.
“Pepe was a strong contender from the outset due to his impressive achievements and has emerged as our number one candidate. He is a forward thinking coach whose teams are renowned for playing an attractive and positive style of football.”
Keith Downing and Dean Kiely, who have led the Baggies with some credit for the five games since Clarke’s departure, are to assist Mel, whose coaching CV also lists the likes of Alaves and Getafe. The pair will be on the touchline against Southampton this weekend, with Mel in the stands.
Garlick added: “The board is extremely grateful to Keith, the coaching staff and players for their efforts over the past month, which has yielded six points from four unbeaten league games. Keith will have an important role to play in supporting Pepe as he coaches in England for the first time.”
Mel takes over a side out of the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup and 14th in the Barclays Premier League, some four points off the drop zone.
Meanwhile, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce remained in his job last night after reportedly getting the continued backing of co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
West Ham have suffered back-to-back cup hammerings after they followed up last weekend’s 5-0 FA Cup humbling by Nottingham Forest by losing 6-0 to Manchester City in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Allardyce insists he is focused on lifting the players’ spirits, saying: “Picking them up and getting them ready for the next game is my job. We cannot keep walking around with our heads down and doom and gloom.”
The Hammers, 19th in the table and without a win in the league since November, visit Cardiff City tomorrow.