Pepe Mel: he was not sacked or the price of a repeated lie

Pepe Mel: he was not sacked or the price of a repeated lie

Pepe Mel - remember him? - the former manager of West Bromwich Albion is planning a return to English football where he feels he has some unfinished business.

Sources close to the former Baggies boss tell me he was recently in the frame for the Nottingham Forest job before it was given to former Real Sociedad coach, Philippe Montanier, and was linked to Aston Villa following the departure of Roberto di Matteo.

But ideas of a return to England are being hampered by the unhelpful spreading of rumours that his stay at the club came to an end because he was dismissed when in fact the decision to leave the Hawthorns was by mutual consent.

My understanding of what actually happened is this.

Two weeks before the end of the league campaign Pepe had a meeting with Jeremy Peace, the then owner of the club.
From the very start of his tenure, difficulties had been placed in front of him. He wanted to bring in his own people to work with him but couldn’t.

Put simply, the club backtracked on their earlier promise and Pep was compelled to work with Keith Downing and Dean Kiely the goalkeeping coach. It was an arrangement that was never going to work.

His below par mastery of the English language was always going to be an impediment to getting his footballing message across but the situation was made far worse by the reluctance of not only the players, but also his own coaching team, to put it into practise.

In fact, the club ‘adviced’ him to speak English as the fans demanded so. Really? I thought the fans wanted the team to win and play well. Pepe Mel felt on his own at West Brom.

When Pepe Mel locked horns with his players and his coaches over tactics the West Bromwich Albion board were forced into making a decision. Pepe stayed, but Dave McDonough, the technical director and training ground interpreter got his marching orders.

From that moment on the die was cast.

Pepe had been brought in by West Brom to change the style only to find upon his arrival that the goalposts had been well and truly moved.

With relegation avoided and nothing more to play for in the last two league games, despite the fact that he had one year remaining on his contract, at the meeting BOTH parties came to the inevitable conclusion that the only feasible outcome would be to shake hands, draw a line under the whole affair and everyone involved go their separate ways

Pepe is no stranger to the premature receiving of his P45 and he would be the first to admit that this is an occupational hazard in the bearpit that is football management.

In 2010 he guided Real Betis from the second division into the top flight in his first season with the club. In his first season in La Liga he took the Seville club to a seventh place finish and a Europa League spot.

He was sacked after losing 4-0 against Sevilla and conceding a last minute equaliser to Rayo Vallecano but returned in December 2014 losing just one game from then until the end of the season and taking Real Betis back into the top flight as champions.

But following a poor run back in Primera and with Betis in 15th place, Pepe was once again shown the door.

An honest, demanding but innovative coach he would be the first man to hold his hands up and admit it if he had in fact been dismissed by the club. But the simple fact is that he wasn’t and any assumptions and allegations that he was are as inaccurate as they are scurrilous and need to be corrected if he is to succeed in his bid to return to English football.

What is certain is that if he does come back to the UK, this time around he will forewarned, forearmed and better prepared especially when it comes to speaking the language

My understanding is that since he left Betis he has spent much of his time improving his English and catching up with some of his old friends in football like Quique Sanchez Flores (while at Watford), Mauricio Pochettino and Rafa Benitez who can also give him some very good pointers about how best to cope with the demands and pressures that come with being a foreign coach in the English footballing system.

Pepe Mel is NOT a bad coach; very, very far from it. But I know many would make the assumption that in his introduction to English football his English was poor, so that’s it -he is and always will be a poor coach. Lazy thinking.

Forward thinking, innovative clubs could do a lot worse than give him a second bite of the English football cherry.