MICAH RICHARDS: West Brom's treatment of Slaven Bilic was a disgrace

MICAH RICHARDS: West Brom’s lack of respect for a dignified man like Slaven Bilic disgusts me… nothing about it was OK and the latest reminder that football feels it can operate in a different way to the rest of the world

  • Every so often an incident will happen in football that leaves you open-mouthed
  • Slaven Bilic did a superb job to get West Brom back up at the first attempt
  • The manner of their summer recruitment made it seem like he was set up to fail
  • Their performance against Manchester City would have given Bilic great heart
  • Finding out from the media you are going to lose your job is not acceptable
  • How have we accepted a culture where it is okay to be treated like this?

Losing your job must be a horrible experience, whatever the circumstances, but finding out from the media must be up there with the very worst ways to learn of your imminent departure.

While in most industries you can expect any such process to be handled with confidentiality and respect before any news is released, that is sadly not always the case in football – and most certainly is not what we saw this week with Slaven Bilic.

It was a disgrace how West Brom treated his dismissal. It was disrespectful and the latest reminder that football, for some reason, feels it can operate in a different way to the rest of the world.

The way West Brom dealt with the sacking of manager Slaven Bilic was disgraceful 

The lack of respect for a man like Bilic who conducted himself with dignity is disgusting 

Everyone knows football is a cut-throat industry but every so often an incident will happen that leaves you open-mouthed.

How have we accepted a culture where it is deemed okay for a manager to be treated in the manner Bilic was? Nothing about it was okay. Nothing.

I watched what turned out to be his final game at Manchester City. I know the players in his squad were right behind him and that was evident with the way they fought until the last kick. If they wanted Bilic gone, they could have easily stopped, given up and lost 6-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

The performance would have given Bilic great heart and rightly so. I was confident they would go on a run to get themselves out of trouble and he has good strong characters such as Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who I knew from Aston Villa.

So, after the boost of that draw in Manchester, to then be confronted by reports after the game that he was going to be sacked would have left Bilic hurt and embarrassed. The lack of respect for a man who has always conducted himself with dignity is disgusting.

West Brom’s performance in their draw against Man City showed they were behind Bilic

To then be confronted by reports that he was to be sacked would have hurt the Croatian

The performance would have given Bilic great heart and rightly so. I was confident they would go on a run to get themselves out of trouble and he has good strong characters such as Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who I knew from Aston Villa.

So, after the boost of that draw in Manchester, to then be confronted by reports after the game that he was going to be sacked would have left Bilic hurt and embarrassed. The lack of respect for a man who has always conducted himself with dignity is disgusting.

It hurts to find out sensitive information from another source. In the summer of 2009, I vividly remember two separate agents telling me that Mark Hughes was trying to get me out of Manchester City and wanted to use me as part-exchange in a deal with Everton for Joleon Lescott.

I didn’t believe it when the first person told me, but when the second one said exactly the same thing I was shattered. I hadn’t been in good form during the previous seasons but I wish Hughes had told me directly and been honest.

Fortunately, I got the chance to turn things around. Bilic, by contrast, was left to stew all through Wednesday and still had to turn up at West Brom’s training ground early in the morning before he was told what was happening.

West Brom’s lack of recruitment makes it feels like Bilic was set up to fail in the top flight

What puzzles me is the timing. Bilic did a superb job last season to get West Brom back in the Premier League at the first attempt. Not many people expected them to return immediately, but he was successful ahead of schedule.

If the club didn’t trust him to take them forward in the summer, why not make the change then? Shake hands, treat the man with respect and explain why you are making such a decision. Some might not agree but at least there has been a firm decision.

Instead, West Brom limped on and you sensed before a ball was even kicked that things were not right. The way I am looking at it, the manner of their recruitment did not tell me they wanted Bilic to succeed. Really, it told me they were setting him up to fail. It wasn’t good enough.

This saddens me as I used to go to West Brom matches quite a lot. Ishmael Miller, one of my best mates from Manchester City, used to play for them and when I had the chance I’d go to the Hawthorns to see him. I loved the atmosphere, the crowd chanting ‘Boing! Boing!’ – it is a proper family club.

When I saw a story on the back of Thursday’s Daily Mail about Sam Allardyce being in line for a £2million bonus if he keeps West Brom up, it simply reinforced how it has become about the bottom line and the fact there is no loyalty any longer.

Sam Allardyce has been brought in to keep the club up and his first game is against Aston Villa

People talk about players looking after themselves but clubs are just as ruthless. Nobody’s feelings are taken into consideration if money is at stake. The game has become so dependent on who is earning what and I find that disheartening.

I’ve seen people saying, ‘Don’t worry, Bilic is getting a pay-off’, but in these circumstances, money is irrelevant. Are we not bothered about how a man has been treated and how other people have been informed of a life-shaping decision before him?

Gareth Southgate once famously said he will always love football but he doesn’t necessarily love the industry – and an episode such as this helps you understand why. There are ways to handle sensitive issues. West Brom have shown us how not to do it.

Micah’s man of the week

We saw a goal-of-the-season contender in midweek and I was delighted Sebastien Haller scored it.

It has been a difficult year for him but here was a reminder of why West Ham paid £45m to sign him from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Sometimes players just need a flash of inspiration to get them going in the right direction and the way Haller took his overhead kick against Crystal Palace augurs well for the rest of the campaign. I hope this is the start of bigger and better things for him.

Sebastien Haller scored one of the best goals all season with this strike against Crystal Palace

Jurgen Klopp’s boys look like champions again

It looked ominous for Liverpool’s title rivals on Wednesday. To have 76 per cent possession against Tottenham, in a match of that quality, speaks volumes for the ability of the champions.

There had been criticism of Roberto Firmino, but he is such an important part of Jurgen Klopp’s team and not someone who can ever be disrespected.

He might not score as many goals as a typical No 9, but when he does register, they are always goals that make a difference.

Liverpool looked like potential champions once again in their late 2-1 win over Tottenham

That is how you define big players and Klopp’s team are full of them, not least Jordan Henderson, whose outstanding 2020 is highlighted by the fact he is on the shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year. What a fantastic achievement if he were to win that.

Knowing Jordan, though, he will have his heart set on a second Premier League title and the more I see of Liverpool, the more they look like they will retain it. 

The discipline in their play since the shock 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa in October has been evident and they were always in control against Spurs.

They look very strong going into Christmas and have made a statement to the teams who are hoping to take their title off them. It’s going to take an enormous effort from someone else to stop them.

Roberto Firmino doesn’t score many but when he does they always seem to be important




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