New West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel was beloved at Betis but his assignment in England could pose a tougher challenge. Stu Forster / Getty Images
New West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel was beloved at Betis but his assignment in England could pose a tougher challenge. Stu Forster / Getty Images

Pepe Mel hopes to write a happy ending at West Brom



West Bromwich Albion are not the highest-profile English team in Spain, but one half of Seville will be watching tonight as the former Real Betis coach Pepe Mel takes charge of the Midlands club in his first game, home against Everton.

West Brom are three points off the relegation zone and Mel, 50, has been told there will not be any money in the transfer window, despite the £7 million (Dh42.1m) sale of Shane Long to Hull City. The immediate future of another striker, Nicolas Anelka, is shrouded in controversy.

September’s impressive victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford seems a long time ago.

Mel faces a tough task. The Madrileno arrived without his regular back-room team and his eight previous jobs have all been in Spain, though he has called a fellow Spaniard, Rafa Benitez, for advice since taking over at The Hawthorns.

Mel is a wonderful character who connected with Betis fans by having time for them and speaking their language.

When he said that he would rather his daughter came home pregnant than Betis be relegated, it caused headlines, but it showed what Betis meant to him. Rival Sevilla fans despised him, more so when he raised his middle finger to them during one derby match.

Mel took charge at Betis in 2010, leading them to promotion in 2011, a 13th-place finish in 2012 and then a seventh place finish last season.

His popularity rose off the back of the club’s improved league placings and a 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona.

His team played with the attacking flair demanded by their supporters and his achievements were doubly worthy as Betis are in administration and have to sell their best players.

They sold his midfield from last season and Mel had to incorporate 14 new faces in the squad for this term. When his main striker, Ruben Castro, was injured and his side had the extra burden of competing in the Europa League it made a hard job almost an impossible one.

With Betis bottom of the table, Mel’s halo started to slip among directors, but he did not shy away from the problems. He called a November news conference and explained it would be cowardly to resign.

“It was necessary for me to speak today,” he said as he sat alone and faced the media. “I had to show my face. “We’re letting the fans down, who have never let us down. I’ve been here three years, we’ve had many obstacles, but we’ve always kept growing. I need not say where we’ve come from to get where we are.”

He asked for support but as the poor results continued hard-core supporters turned up at the training ground to confront him and his players. He spoke to them face to face and they got the answers they wanted. If there was a silver lining, it is that Mel – an accomplished and published crime novelist – might be able to use it as a plot line in a future book.

He had time to write after being dismissed by Betis in early December.

The dismissal did not go down well and fans turned up at the stadium, where some threw bricks at the press-room windows.

Those fans feel vindicated as Betis’s form has not improved under the new manager Juan Carlos Garrido. He was jeered throughout the match in Saturday’s 5-0 home defeat to Real Madrid.

Mel was linked with the West Brom job after Steve Clarke’s dismissal. He had always said that the English Premier League was the best in the world and signed an 18-month contract after much negotiation about his back-room staff. Spain wishes him well, but not everyone is convinced.

“He’s a good frontman, who is full of charisma, which the fans and media love,” said one agent who has worked with Betis and prefers to be unnamed. “I think he’ll struggle at West Brom without his team around him.”

Mel, who is the only Premier League manager with a Twitter account, said, “I hope my confidence is transmitted to the players”.

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First Person
Richard Flanagan
Chatto & Windus 

The biog

Mission to Seafarers is one of the largest port-based welfare operators in the world.

It provided services to around 200 ports across 50 countries.

They also provide port chaplains to help them deliver professional welfare services.

Ready Player One
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Keane on …

Liverpool’s Uefa Champions League bid: “They’re great. With the attacking force they have, for me, they’re certainly one of the favourites. You look at the teams left in it - they’re capable of scoring against anybody at any given time. Defensively they’ve been good, so I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t go on and win it.”

Mohamed Salah’s debut campaign at Anfield: “Unbelievable. He’s been phenomenal. You can name the front three, but for him on a personal level, he’s been unreal. He’s been great to watch and hopefully he can continue now until the end of the season - which I’m sure he will, because he’s been in fine form. He’s been incredible this season.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s instant impact at former club LA Galaxy: “Brilliant. It’s been a great start for him and for the club. They were crying out for another big name there. They were lacking that, for the prestige of LA Galaxy. And now they have one of the finest stars. I hope they can go win something this year.”

UFC FIGHT NIGHT: SAUDI ARABIA RESULTS

Main card
Middleweight:

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Heavyweight:
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card
Lightweight:

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Featherweight:
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Welterweight:
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Bantamweight:
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Bantamweight:
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision

Ways to control drones

Countries have been coming up with ways to restrict and monitor the use of non-commercial drones to keep them from trespassing on controlled areas such as airports.

"Drones vary in size and some can be as big as a small city car - so imagine the impact of one hitting an airplane. It's a huge risk, especially when commercial airliners are not designed to make or take sudden evasive manoeuvres like drones can" says Saj Ahmed, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research.

New measures have now been taken to monitor drone activity, Geo-fencing technology is one.

It's a method designed to prevent drones from drifting into banned areas. The technology uses GPS location signals to stop its machines flying close to airports and other restricted zones.

The European commission has recently announced a blueprint to make drone use in low-level airspace safe, secure and environmentally friendly. This process is called “U-Space” – it covers altitudes of up to 150 metres. It is also noteworthy that that UK Civil Aviation Authority recommends drones to be flown at no higher than 400ft. “U-Space” technology will be governed by a system similar to air traffic control management, which will be automated using tools like geo-fencing.

The UAE has drawn serious measures to ensure users register their devices under strict new laws. Authorities have urged that users must obtain approval in advance before flying the drones, non registered drone use in Dubai will result in a fine of up to twenty thousand dirhams under a new resolution approved by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Mr Ahmad suggest that "Hefty fines running into hundreds of thousands of dollars need to compensate for the cost of airport disruption and flight diversions to lengthy jail spells, confiscation of travel rights and use of drones for a lengthy period" must be enforced in order to reduce airport intrusion.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Four-day collections of TOH

Day             Indian Rs (Dh)        

Thursday    500.75 million (25.23m)

Friday         280.25m (14.12m)

Saturday     220.75m (11.21m)

Sunday       170.25m (8.58m)

Total            1.19bn (59.15m)

(Figures in millions, approximate)

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

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