ROBERTO Di Matteo today admitted his sacking by West Brom may have been a blessing in disguise as he prepares for his first return to the Hawthorns as Chelsea boss.
Di Matteo insisted he bore no grudges over his controversial dismissal in February 2011, which has ended up working out spectacularly well both for the Baggies and him personally.
The Italian lost his job after a lengthy run of bad results, although he had just led them back into the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt and they were not even in the relegation zone.
However, replacement Roy Hodgson did turn their campaign around - ultimately earning him the England job - while Di Matteo's subsequent adventures are now the stuff of legend.
His astonishing Champions League and FA Cup triumphs with Chelsea last season led to him being appointed manager full time and gave him licence to be philosophical about his Hawthorns demise.
"Look at where I'm sitting now, so I'm not so sure it was a bad thing," said Di Matteo ahead of tomorrow's Barclays Premier League game between the sides.
The 42-year-old added: "That's football. That's life.
"In a manager's career, you're going to get the sack at some point if you have a long career.
"It's happened to everybody in the industry, and it makes you stronger. It doesn't mean you're not a good coach or a good manager.
"There are many examples of good managers where it didn't work out with a club. They were successful before and were again after."
Asked if he held any grudges over his dismissal, he said: "No grudges, no. Not at all."
"I had a great time. I worked with a lot of good people there.
"The supporters were very kind to me as well. I had almost two years there.
"Despite the fact that last season's game was not a good memory, because we lost, I can reflect on good memories there."
The game Di Matteo mentioned saw West Brom seal his fate for a second time, but it worked in his favour that time as he was promoted from assistant manager at Chelsea to caretaker boss, with Andre Villas-Boas the fall guy.
Di Matteo said of the March upheaval: "That defeat led to a reaction. It was a very difficult time we found ourselves in.
"I was asked to fill in until the end of the season, and I was very pleased to help the club."
Di Matteo masterminded the greatest climax to a season in Chelsea's history but he could find himself under real pressure if they fail to win tomorrow after three league games without a victory.
He said: "For us, every week and every game is a match that defines our path, really. Last week the game against Shakhtar [Donetsk] was a defining game.
"This one now, in the league against West Brom, then the Champions League and Manchester City.
"Every game we play can define our season, and the games after too."