Former Chelsea and Reading CEO Ron Gourlay has joined West Bromwich Albion as a consultant this summer after the departure of former Director of Football Luke Dowling, according to last night’s exclusive from the Daily Mail.
It was previously reported by Football Insider that the Baggies would not bring in a successor and instead give more power to Valerien Ismael over transfers after a change in strategy – but the old Reading man has been brought in as a consultant on various issues including transfer dealings and will be there to assist the Frenchman with incomings and departures.
Matheus Pereira and Sam Johnstone are two of the names linked with a move away from the Hawthorns, but having already signed former Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt, there is still plenty to do on the incomings front and the former CEO is likely to be at the forefront of this.
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Gourlay was appointed Chief Executive of Premier League giants Chelsea after Peter Kenyon’s departure in 2009 and saw the Blues win a Premier League title, the Champions League, Europa League and two FA Cup wins during his five-year tenure in the senior position at Stamford Bridge.
He left the club in 2014 with an impressive CV, also working for Manchester United previously and this tempted Reading to bring him to the Madejski Stadium in the summer of 2017.
The Royals had new owners at the time and had just suffered a play-off final loss to Huddersfield Town – but shareholders Mr Dai and Ms Hawken were determined to get the Berkshire side to the Premier League in the following season.
With this, Gourlay oversaw a heavy summer of spending and made then-Fulham winger Sone Aluko his marquee signing of the window, spending a reported £7.5m to bring the Nigerian to the Madejski Stadium.
However, this move (and many others during that period) didn’t work out and they finished just three points away from the relegation zone, sacking former manager Jaap Stam in the process.
But despite successor Paul Clement steering the Royals away from danger at the latter end of that season, with the CEO bringing in a former Chelsea man, they struggled again at the start of the 2018/19 season and Gourlay stepped down in the November having had a torrid time in Berkshire.
Perhaps his time at Reading was an anomaly in what otherwise looks like a pretty successful career in football for Gourlay – but he was given a lot of power in Berkshire by the club’s owners and sent the Royals into a rapid decline after the promising 2016/17 season.
The Berkshire side are still feeling the effects of this heavy spending and although their business in the 2019 summer window didn’t exactly help matters, Gourlay also has to take some of the responsibility along with the owners for the transfer embargoes they have faced since.
After a slow start to the summer, West Brom have done brilliantly to secure Valerien Ismael and Alex Mowatt, but they must ensure any role given to the former Chelsea CEO is a limited one.
He may have learnt lessons from his time at Reading – but with the Baggies currently going through a very important summer as they try to aim for promotion once again – Guochuan Lai and Xu Ke must keep Gourlay under control.
If they can, there’s no reason why they can’t get back to the top flight after securing the Barnsley duo.