Baggies step up manager search

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Pepe Mel has been linked with the West Brom job Pepe Mel has been linked with the West Brom job

West Brom are expected to hold talks with several managerial candidates on Friday as they close in on a replacement for Steve Clarke.

West Brom sacked Clarke two weeks ago after a run of four successive defeats left the midlands club on the periphery of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

Albion have taken their time in putting together a list of possible successors as they are keen to get the right man for the job.

Pepe Mel is believed to be the frontrunner for the position, but Press Association Sport understands the former Real Betis boss is by no means certain to get the job.

It is understood Albion are keen to hold talks with other candidates before making a decision.

Paul Clement, who is currently assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, has been linked with the position, as has former Osasuna boss Jose Luis Mendilibar and ex-Liverpool defender Mauricio Pellegrino.

Reports suggested that Mel was at White Hart Lane to watch West Brom's 1-1 draw against Tottenham on Boxing Day, but Press Association Sport understands that was not the case.

Still, Mel is the bookmakers' favourite to take the hot seat.

The 50-year-old has been out of work since being sacked by Real Betis on December 2.

Mel, who started his playing career at Real Madrid, spent three years at Betis and he has also managed Rayo Vallecano, Tenerife and Getafe.

The Spaniard has never coached outside of his homeland, but midfielder Zoltan Gera sees no reason why that should be a problem.

Gera, who made his first start in a year on Boxing Day, points to the example of Southampton, who have gone from strength to strength under Mauricio Pochettino even though he had no experience of the English game before he replaced Nigel Adkins in January.

"I don't know whether a foreign manager will come in, but you never know," Gera said.

"If you look at Southampton, they are doing well with a foreign manager. But I trust the club and I think they will make a good decision and get a good coach."

Caretaker manager Keith Downing is expected to take charge of the team for Saturday's crunch clash against West Ham at Upton Park.

Although the search for a new boss could stretch into a third week, Gera insists the uncertainty will not affect the players.

"We are just looking at the games and prepare for Saturday at West Ham," Gera added.

"We don't need to think about new coaches, we just need to be professional and do our best.

"It's a nice group and you can see we're sticking together in the Christmas period."

Downing followed up a 1-1 draw against Hull with another creditable stalemate versus Tottenham on Thursday.

Downing's men showed resolve, bouncing back from Christian Eriksen's opener to come away with a point thanks to Jonas Olsson's equaliser.

West Brom are three points outside the drop zone, but West Ham are two points from safety after their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Downing expects the Hammers to come out fighting at Upton Park.

"We know what they are like, we know their strengths are and I am sure Big Sam (Allardyce) will have them charged up," Downing said.

"It's a big game, but we have never shied away from the position we are in and we need to get as many points as we possibly can and pave the way for the new man to come in."

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