After just over two weeks of silence, Ron Gourlay finally issued a statement late on Tuesday evening to confirm that the former Huddersfield Town head coach, Carlos Corberán, has been selected as the man to attempt to turnaround Albion’s dismal season.
Legal difficulties delayed the official announcement after strong suggestions that the decision had been finalised as early as Saturday afternoon before the Baggies kicked off at Millwall, but after the Twitterati went into meltdown for 48 hours, the confirmation did come through and the Spaniard, the second to lead Albion after Pepe Mel, will take his first training session on Wednesday morning. Unlike Steve Bruce, Corberán has been given the title of Head Coach which is hopefully an indication that the appointment of a Sporting Director is close.
While his is not one of the names I immediately thought of, Corberán fits the bill of a young up-and-coming coach that I was hopeful for and, while his experience as a head coach is limited, he has been a full-time coach for 16 years having retired from playing at the age of 23. His one extended period in charge of a club was at Huddersfield Town and it can only be described as a success. While his first season in charge was a consolidation at best, to transform that team to one that was incredibly unlucky not to win promotion via the play-offs was a remarkable achievement.
The other big positive on his CV is his three years at Leeds United with the second two as Marcelo Bielsa’s number two as the Argentine revitalised the club to win promotion to the Premier League club. Working under a man widely acknowledged as one of the best coaches in world can only have improved his coaching ability and, having been given twelve months at the Kirklees Stadium to work out his own way of working, he showed last season how good he could be.
Some will point to short spells in Cyprus and more recently in Greece, but that doesn’t concern me too much. If you read about his journey, he just happened to be in Cyprus when the first opportunity came up and, while neither job lasted too long, nor were they described as failures. As for Olympiacos, he was following on from a coach who had won three consecutive league titles and was still sacked, and eleven games is hardly a fair crack of the whip especially when they had qualified for the Europa League group stages and lost just once in the league.
As fans, we will need a little patience and not expect an immediate turnaround. It will inevitably take time for him to instil his methodology and explain what he wants from the players, and even longer to work out which ones are able to meet his demands. The two months ahead of the transfer window will be crucial in that respect, but he obviously still needs to improve results in the meantime.
I was not confident that Gourlay would make a decent selection, but I can’t complain about Corberán. We can now only hope that he gets the support he needs to rebuild the coaching and scouting setup, and the financial means to continue the transformation of the squad in January.
Corberán’s Career To Date
At 39, Carlos Corberán is one of the youngest permanent managers or head coaches that Albion have employed, but he has plenty of coaching experience having given up his playing career at the age of 23. Born in Cheste near Valencia, he played as a goalkeeper for Valencia’s youth and reserve teams but never made the first team. He always had a passion for coaching and was working with youth teams for his home town club in Cheste even while he was still playing, but a lecturer at the Universidad de Valencia where he was studying sports and exercise science arranged an interview with Juan Carlos Garrido who was director of the academy at Villareeal. He was successful and, as a result he opted to retire from playing and concentrate on coaching.
He spent six years at Villarreal, three of them with the first team including the season in which they reached the semi-finals of the Europa League (2010/11) and learned from both coaches and experienced players such as Robert Pires. He left Villarreal with Garrido was sacked with the club struggling just before Christmas 2011 and he moved to Saudi Arabia having been recommended to Al-Ittihad head coach, Raúl Caneda, by Pep Guardiola. After another spell back in Spain with Alcorcón and a return to Saudi with Al-Nassr, he finally got the opportunity to take a head coaching role in Cyprus with Doxa Katokopias.
He only spent one season in Cyprus, at two different clubs, but at the end of the season, he was given the opportunity to coach the Leeds United U23 team. After a successful first season, he had a meeting with club owner, Andrea Radrizzani, and Technical Director, Víctor Orta and he was invited to join them on the trip they made to Argentina to bring Marcelo Bielsa to Elland Road in the summer of 2018.
He joined Bielsa’s staff, something that Corberán described as a “marvellous experience”, and he was a key part of the coaching setup that saw Leeds promoted back to the Premier League in 2020. After that success, he felt the time was right to be a head coach again and he was appointed as Huddersfield Town boss in July 2020.
It was an inauspicious start as the Terriers lost the first three games of the season without scoring a goal. They spent most of the season just below mid-table but fell away towards the end of the season as results stuttered, including a 7-0 defeat to Norwich City, and they eventually finished 20th. The club hierarchy kept faith with the Spaniard, however, and kept him in post for the following campaign.
After another three defeats to open last season, Corberán’s team won four out of the next five league games to climb to fourth spot and remained in the top half of the table for the remainder of the campaign. Form stuttered in late November and early December but soon recovered and they were in with a shout of automatic promotion late into the campaign and ultimately finished third. After beating Luton Town in the play-off semi-final, the Terriers were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Nottingham Forest at Wembley.
Corberán made what he felt was a difficult decision to leave the Kirklees Stadium after the play-off defeat and, a few weeks later, he was appointed as head coach of Greek champions, Olympiacos. It proved to be a short spell in Athens, however, after the Spaniard was sacked in September after just eleven games despite only losing one league game of his five in charge, with Corberán’s other two defeats coming in European competition.
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