The truth behind Darren Moore’s sacking at West Bromwich Albion
Background photo: Tony Hisgett, CC BY 2.0
Darren Moore was sacked by West Bromwich Albion after a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town on March 9. Assistant head coaches Graeme Jones and Wayne Jacobs were also dismissed. James Shan was placed in caretaker charge until a permanent appointment was made but CEO Mark Jenkins’ decision was controversial.
Moore’s departure shocked many. The Baggies are fourth in the Championship, well on course to reach the playoffs. The club spun out an explanation.
Everything was geared to making as swift a return to the Premier League as possible (but) Darren has not been able to engineer the consistency of form and results to convince the board that this objective would be met.
In pre-season, the board targeted automatic promotion. Recent results produced concern that goal was slipping from their reach. The Ipswich stalemate left Albion nine points adrift of automatic promotion. It was the sixth consecutive home game they failed to win. West Brom won just three games at the Hawthorns since October.
Moore's back line leaked goals. Only Preston North End  and Hull City  shipped more goals in the table's top half than West Brom's 48. While the club demonstrated little faith in the man who made the team competitive in the Premier League last term, albeit too late, to call the 44-year-old’s sacking racially motivated is disingenuous. Moore's squad dropped points in eight of their last 12 league games. You can't earn automatic promotion in that manner.
If the season began on New Year’s Day, West Brom would be closer to the relegation zone than the top-two. They’ve underperformed for nearly three months. Moore’s sacking wasn’t the snap decision it appears. Being in and around the playoffs wasn’t enough to save his job even though critics find his dismissal unfair.
Twelve months ago, Albion sat rock bottom of the Premier League table. Alan Pardew had Tony Pulis after a dismal start to the campaign. On his watch, veteran players stole a taxi during warm weather training in Barcelona. Then they suffered a run of eight consecutive defeats. The relationship between players and supporters reached an all-time low. The club were mired in relegation. West Brom sacked Pardew in April, with all and sundry wondering why it took so long.
Moore engineered a remarkable turnaround in form, three wins, two draws, one defeat, including a memorable victory over Jose Mourinho's Manchester United. The caretaker boss earned Manager of the Month honours in April. Only six Premier League sides picked up more points from their final half-dozen games than Albion. The cost of success is people expect more. Club and fans both believed Moore could return the team to the top-flight at the first opportunity.
Moore was promoted to the Premier League twice as a West Brom player and some believe he was robbed of the opportunity to do so as a manager. That said, Albion aren't known for their patience. They've gone through* a dozen bosses [Roberto Di Matteo, Michael Appleton, Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke, Keith Downing, Pepe Mel, Alan Irvine, Rob Kelly, Pulis, Gary Megson, Pardew and Moore] in the past eight years. Colour wasn't an issue in those instances. Why is it now? The club waited longer than expected to dismiss Pardew a year earlier. Whether or not you term it panicking, they weren't prepared to make the same mistake twice.
As a beloved figure revered by supporters, Moore's appointment as permanent head coach proved popular. His sacking left a sour taste in the mouth. It’s hard to ignore that he was the only black manager in the Championship. At the same time, it must be remembered Albion were the first top-flight club to regularly start black players.
The Baggies planned to erect* a statue in 2012 to honour the Three Degrees, Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis. The trio's success opened doors for other black footballers.
Now the Baggies have sacked a former black player and will likely replace him with a white manager. Alex Neil, Slavisa Jokanovic, David Moyes and Jimmy Shan are the frontrunners.
It isn't easy for black managers to win opportunities. Sol Campbell's only option was Macclesfield Town, a club at the foot of League Two. Paul Scholes took his sweet time before agreeing to manage Oldham United in the same league. Frank Lampard was appointed Derby County boss in the Championship with no previous experience. Joey Barton was handed the job at League One Fleetwood Town under the same conditions. Steven Gerrard at least worked in the Liverpool youth setup before taking the reins at Rangers.
While there is an argument that black managers are overlooked for reasons other than their ability, Moore wasn't overlooked. The old adage goes that managers are hired to be fired. In that light, he wasn't treated any differently than Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, Leonardo Jardim at Monaco or Roberto di Matteo at Chelsea. Your skin colour shouldn't win you a job. Nor should it mandate you keep it.
*Editor's note: The article incorrectly stated that the Three Degrees statue had been completed when financing issues continue to delay the project. Nor were all 12 managers in the past eight seasons dismissed. However, the point that all save Moore are Caucasian stands. We apologise for the errors.