Former West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips has defended manager Valerien Ismael amid criticisms of his tenure at The Hawthorns, saying he deserves credit for guiding the Baggies to a ‘fantastic position’ as he spoke to West Brom News.
Albion are currently two points behind AFC Bournemouth who sit in second place, with the former managing to drag themselves back into the automatic promotion mix after claiming consecutive wins against Coventry City and Reading earlier this month.
Last night, they had the opportunity to temporarily go level on points with the Cherries as they travelled to Oakwell to face relegation battlers Barnsley, but were unable to break the deadlock and were held to a frustrating goalless draw in a setback to their top-two hopes.
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Although there was frustration and anger after that result on social media, criticism had been brewing of many West Brom players and manager Ismael even before then with multiple lacklustre displays and criticism of the Frenchman’s style of play.
These criticisms from some sections of the fanbase have intensified despite their current position, although many fans will be frustrated they haven’t been able to take full advantage of Fulham and Bournemouth’s inconsistency.
But there are some, including ex-Albion striker Phillips, who believe the 46-year-old should be receiving a lot more credit than he currently is.
Speaking to West Brom News prior to their meeting against the Tykes, he said: “You’ve got to give the manager some credit – you’ve got to give credit to everyone that’s involved.
“Every team in that Championship – and I’ve said it since day one – will have a blip or a run when things are not going well.
“West Brom probably have had their little blip when people were getting on Ismael’s back but they’ve come out of it, they’re getting results and there in amongst it.
“Going into the Christmas period, they’re in a fantastic position so I think Ismael deserves credit and the players deserve credit for grinding those results out.
“They’re in a very, very good position and let’s not forget, they’ve picked up knocks along the way, they’ve had suspensions and now they’ve had players missing through COVID.”
This is a tough one to call, because his side are still in the play-off zone at this stage and it would be harsh if he was to go before January, especially without the chance to strengthen his squad.
However, the club’s stuttering form has to be shared between two particular parties. Firstly, Ismael has to take accountability for the fact some of their football hasn’t been great to watch and quality has not only been lacking in the finishing department, but also in other attacking areas.
But the board also have to hold their hands up for failing to back the Frenchman enough during the summer transfer window.
You can appreciate the fact they want to remain financially responsible after their relegation and that’s understandable, but they needed to bring in another striker during the summer window and also left themselves short at centre-back, hence their need to bring in Kean Bryan.
January is the chance for them to rectify this – and then it will be down to the manager to produce results on the pitch. If they fail to support him next month with a good enough budget, then criticism of the club’s hierarchy will only intensify.