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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Megson's spiritual home
Megson deserves his success at The Hawthorns
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By Phil McNulty
BBC Sport Online chief football writer

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Gary Megson has suffered from football's capacity for shabby treatment - so no-one can begrudge him his wonderful success at West Bromwich Albion.

Megson's career qualifies him as one of football's nomads, making a journey around all points on the game's compass in search of a home.

He appears to have finally found his spiritual surroundings at The Hawthorns, and any manager of the year short-list would have to contain Megson's name.

Megson's work at West Brom is a tribute to his burning desire for success.

It is also a glorious vindication for those who believe too many clubs are too quick to appoint "designer" managers, who may look the part but lack experience and qualifications.

Megson's reputation is sky-high - and if Everton's approach for David Moyes had failed, he was next in line to take the road to Goodison Park.

If serving an apprenticeship is the path to managerial success, then Megson has learned the ropes - and taken the blows along the way.

Megson learned the ropes at Norwich City
Megson was an industrious midfield man who started his career at Plymouth and moved on to Everton, but enjoyed his best years at Sheffield Wednesday.

But he suffered the public humiliation of being signed by Brian Clough for Nottingham Forest - then dispatched without playing a game accompanied by a less than flattering reference from the old master.

This may have shaped Megson's managerial outlook as a man who is fiercely loyal to his players if they deliver, and ruthless if they don't.

In the build-up to the win over Crystal Palace, Megson's reputation as the hardest of taskmasters was picked over.

He imposes fines of two weeks' wages on players who are booked for dissent or who are late for training.

Megson explained: "I prefer to think of myself as professional. If somebody is five minutes late for training, can they really be trusted to pick up the opposition's number five at a set-piece during a match?"

It is the sort of logic that may be scoffed at, but the type of tactic he may have learned in his very brief spell under Clough.

Megson's managerial record is as varied and chequered as his playing career, but promotion is a triumph for his own personal persistence.

From Norfolk and Norwich to the Black Country and West Brom, Megson has finally arrived - via Blackpool, Stockport and Stoke.

Megson's first taste of management came in April 1995 when John Deehan stepped down at Norwich City.

He took charge of a squad short on confidence and stripped of assets, and with only five games to plot a path to survival.

Megson could not perform the miracle and was replaced by Martin O'Neill, only to return in the following November when the Irishman quit after a row with then chairman Robert Chase.

Megson waves goodbye to appreciative Stoke fans
He was manager for 27 games, winning only five but doing his job against a backdrop of dissent against chairman Chase.

When Chase resigned as chairman shortly before the end of the season, the credits were rolling and Megson was soon replaced by Mike Walker.

Megson moved on to Second Division Blackpool, staying for one season and a respectable seventh place before leaving for Stockport County in July 1997.

He once again peformed creditably at Edgeley Park, but after a mediocre season in 1998/99 he was sacked after his volatile relationship with chairman Brendan Elwood came to head.

There were claims from Stockport that Megson had been applying for other jobs, but it was another bruising experience.

And that was followed up by another body blow shortly after he was appointed as Stoke City boss in July 1999.

Megson made a highly-promising start to his reign, guiding Stoke into eighth place by November, but he was once again undone by boardroom politics.

In a highly-unlikely scenario, Stoke became the takeover target for an Icelandic consortium, and once they succeeded they appointed their own man in Gudjon Thordarson and Megson was on his way again.

Megson arrived at The Hawthorns in March 2002 and has performed a masterpiece of management.

It appears Megson's managerial career is destined to be a rocky ride, and his relationship with Albion chairman Paul Thompson has had its moments.

They have disagreed publicly over Albion's scouting system, but the brutal truth is that the club would not be in the position of contemplating the Premiership without Megson.

It is a story of triumph against the odds - for the manager even more than the club.

BBC Sport's Olly Foster
"The club can expect to earn 20 million"

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