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Julian Dicks opens up on all things West Brom

| 09.09.2021

Julian Dicks was first-team coach when West Brom were promoted to the Premier League last year before departing when Slaven Bilic was sacked in December.

In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes, the former West Ham and Liverpool defender looks back on his time at The Hawthorns and assesses the current Albion squad.

Albion chairman wanted us to work miracles

Slaven [Bilic] gave me a call while I was out coaching kids in America. I didn’t recognise the number at first, so I answered the phone and it was him, telling me he’d got the West Brom job, and he wanted to know if I’d join him again as a coach.

I was sat in a cigar bar at the time. I told him I’d love to come to West Brom. I’d played against the club on many occasions throughout my career and it was always a ground that stood out to me. It reminds me of Upton Park; the supporters remind me of the West Ham fans; it’s a nice, tight stadium, the fans are passionate about the club, so for me it was a no-brainer to go up there and work with Slav.

We just about crawled over the line for promotion in the end in that first season, but we did it. It’s on my CV, it’s on Slav’s CV as a promotion to the Premier League. There’s no asterisks there saying ‘yeah but you only just did it’. We did it, and that was an unbelievable feeling.

Do I think it was a bit harsh of the board to get rid of us so soon? Most definitely, but I do understand the decision because football’s a big business. It was a premature decision if you’re asking me, but that’s football – nothing surprises me in this game anymore. We’d just got promoted and didn’t really have a lot of money to spend, but the chairman still wanted us to work miracles, and unfortunately that just doesn’t happen in football.

Our sports analysts told us we were getting sacked in the morning…

You’re travelling to the Etihad to go and play Manchester City, having just come up from the Championship. You know it’s going to be a tough game, and everybody has to give 100% to even have a chance of taking anything from the game. We rode our luck in that game, don’t get me wrong, and Sam Johnstone was sensational that night and we managed to nick a draw.

We were on the coach back home later that evening – we had two coaches, one for players and one for staff – sat at the front, and a couple of the sports analyst lads called me to the back and showed me a story doing the rounds on Twitter claiming we were getting the sack. I went: “Come on, seriously? We’ve just drew away at Man City.”

To be honest, I didn’t think anything of it; you know what social media is like. But lo and behold, the next day comes and we get called into the office and that was it.

Obviously the decision was made before then; they expected us to go to the Etihad, get smashed by four or five and then it would’ve been an easy decision. But it didn’t go that way, so clearly the decision had already been made because you just don’t get sacked from a club like West Brom off the back of a point away at Man City.

Slaven Bilic, West Brom

I don’t think the fans took too kindly to the decision, and there’s something to take from that. It means you’ve done something right for their club. Whatever people think of Slaven, he’s a really nice man and he’s very good tactically.

Norwich went about it the right way with Daniel Farke; he got them up, then took them down again but the board stuck with him, and they’re right back up there again. To be honest, I thought the board might’ve done that with Slaven, but unfortunately the chairman got cold feet and he wanted a change.

Of course I want Albion back in the Premier League

I’ll always keep an eye on West Brom’s results now, and I want them to do well. If you go into football thinking you’re going to keep your job for 20 years, then you’re mistaken. You know there’s always a chance you’re going to lose your job, so you can’t carry that hatred for a team just because you’ve been moved on. It doesn’t achieve anything. I got on well with the players and I want them all to succeed; I want them to get back into the Premier League.

It’s not just the fans at West Brom, though. The staff were all so nice, from the kitmen Jacko and Dan to the chef, to the secretary. We used to have such a laugh with the groundsmen as well; it was like a proper family up there.

I’m not surprised Albion haven’t spent a penny this summer

It doesn’t surprise me that the club hasn’t spent any money this summer. I can understand why they haven’t, but at the end of the day if you want to progress, you have to spend money. You can’t just rely on free transfers and loans. They should’ve spent money if they want to achieve promotion again. You’re not asking for hundreds of millions, but go out and make a statement; spend money on a striker who’ll come in and get you upwards of 20 goals.

‘Inconsistent’ Pereira left for the money; I don’t understand why though… you’re surely going to earn enough in England

Was I surprised that Matheus Pereira left England to sign for Al Hilal? Of course I was. Matheus is a good player, but for me he needs to be more consistent. When he’s on his game, he’s exceptional, but that might be for just one in three games. He’ll give you a 5 or 6 out of 10 one week, and a 10 out of 10 the next.

He’s obviously gone out there for the money; you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. That’s what I don’t understand though; you’re surely earning enough money in the Premier League, playing against some of the best teams in the world, but you’d rather go and play over in Saudi Arabia?

Dara O’Shea would’ve fit right into 90s football; he’s a great boy who wears his heart on his sleeve

It’s difficult to pick out a standout player for me at West Brom – ‘my kind of player’ – because football has changed so much from when I played. We used to have five-a-side games where we would kick lumps out of each other, and this is just in training. You can’t do that now. Players are looked after a lot better these days.

I got on very well with Jake Livermore and Kyle Bartley. In fact, I’d say I got on with around 95% of the players there. There’s always one or two that are a bit strange, but I’ve played with players that were a bit strange, so that’s just something you get used to.

I got on really well with Dara [O’Shea]. He’s a great boy who wears his heart on his sleeve. When I talk about the kind of things I used to do in training when I was a player, and those physical, aggressive five-a-side games, Dara is exactly the kind of player who would’ve fit right in with those sessions. He’ll go through you in training like you’re not there.

He’d have fit in with my old West Ham team, for sure, because he gave everything in every training session and every single game, and he loves to play football. What you get from him is a lot of passion and a lot of pride. He’s going to be a big miss for the next six months or so.

West Brom got a great deal by bringing in Robinson for Burke; he’s exactly the kind of player you want in your dressing room

Callum Robinson is a great lad to have around your dressing room, he really is. He’s a bubbly character and West Brom got a great deal out of Sheffield United by bringing him in for Oli Burke. Oli, for me, hasn’t achieved what he should have achieved. His pace is electric and he should have done a lot more.

Callum Robinson

Callum’s good to have around the changing room, he’ll have a laugh with you and take the mick. He’s a great player as well, and he can finish. He’s a great finisher. He worked on his finishing every day after training, which is always nice to see from your striker. He’s getting on the scoresheet quite regularly now and he’s enjoying a lot of success from those Darnell Furlong throw-ins. It doesn’t matter how they go in when you’re a striker; it’s about scoring goals. Gary Lineker did it for years, so Callum won’t care one bit how his goals are going in.

If Grady can find that consistency, West Brom have got a really talented boy on their hands

Grady [Diangana] is a very good player. When we were working at West Ham I used to watch him a lot in the under-23s. But again, for me, he has to be more consistent. For the player he is, he should be having good game after good game. I see he’s been taken off a few times this season, so for me, all I’m asking for is a bit more consistency from him because if he can find that, he really will put himself on a whole new level.

There are so many players out there who don’t achieve what they should achieve because of that problem with consistency, and at the moment Grady is one of them. He’s a fantastic lad, though; a really nice lad who wants to learn and loves to train. Hopefully it clicks because there’s a really talented boy in there that West Brom have got on their hands.

If I was playing football now, I’d be getting booked every week, sent off every four games

It was quite difficult back in my playing days to get a yellow card. If I was playing now, the way the game has gone, I’d be booked every match. I’d be getting sent off every four or five games.

This is what really winds me up in today’s game; when you’ve got players, coaches, fellow professionals, trying to get the opposition sent off. For me, that’s disgraceful. Don’t get me wrong, I love football and I wish I was still playing, but I wouldn’t be able to cope with that. Trying to get another player sent off? It’s ridiculous. Whoever does that sort of thing should be punished by the FA, because it’s not right.

I’ve had it out with a few players – even as a coach – in the tunnel after games. You can hear them scream when they go down and you know they’ve not been touched. If you’re injured, I understand it, but these players roll around screaming, then all of a sudden they get up and run off. It’s a joke.

Managers running down the touchline, as well; that’s another one. It’s the same as trying to get someone booked or sent off. It’s disrespectful. Valerien Ismael did it against Peterborough before the international break, and for me that’s disrespectful to the other manager. I understand they’ve scored in the last 10 seconds of the game and nicked three points, but you shouldn’t be doing that. As a manager you shouldn’t be doing that.

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Andrew McDermott