Much has been written in the past few days about the decision to sack Darren Moore, with many in the national media and the game as a whole decrying the decision as being somewhere between outrageous and incredibly harsh.
I made my views clear in my article on Sunday but, while there were fans actively calling for Moore to go, there are plenty who have indicated that while they don’t like the decision, they can understand why it has been made.
I am probably in that camp, but I don’t buy the official statement that the decision was made with “the Club’s best interests at the forefront of [their] thinking”. I’d like to put forward the hypothesis that the decision was taken in the interests of one man, West Bromwich Albion owner, Guochuan Lai.
We all know that Lai bought the club thinking it to be a stable Premier League outfit with “never relegated” Tony Pulis guiding the club to season-after-season of dull but stable mid-table obscurity. Owning a Premier League club for a Chinese billionaire is something of a vanity project, and the signing of Zhang Yuning was within that vanity case.
However, Lai’s dream all went pear-shaped last season with form on the pitch nose diving and the individuals that Peace recommended to him to the run the club proving to be unequal to the challenge of guiding his new plaything through troubled waters.
Furthermore, while I doubt he ever planned to invest significant sums into the club, the Chinese government’s decision to restrict overseas investments cannot have helped and it has certainly tied his hands.
It would not, therefore, surprise me if Lai has been regretting his purchase for the last twelve months and is looking for an exit. He will know that as time goes on, the chances of a return to the Premier League without investing outside funds into the squad diminishes, and I wonder if he has already decided to look to sell the club this summer irrespective of what division Albion will be playing in next season.
If you consider the decision in that light, it makes a little more sense. From Lai’s point of view, he has already decided to get out, so upsetting a section of the fans by discarding a well-loved man is not important to him. Moore may have been too much of gamble if promotion was a must, but was a cheap option and, as Matt Wilson of the Express and Star has suggested, Lai may have been seduced by a couple of victories over the big boys. It was a gamble that looked to have paid off while automatic promotion was within sight but, as it has receded and form has dipped, he now has little to lose by gambling further that a new face could make the difference.
The difference between the price of a Championship club and a Premier League one is significant, but he knows that without promotion, the value will continue to fall and, without the ability to invest further, never mind the inclination, it probably makes sense to cut his losses. If promotion is secured, the value is that much higher and he will now have realised that this football club ownership game is not that easy after all, and it may still the right time to get out.
I have no facts to back this up, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Whatever happens, it could be another turbulent summer at West Bromwich Albion