‘Knock on my door’ The expert view on two West Brom stars making a case
When a football club loans a young player out, it’s usually with the intention of said youngster gaining valuable experience of senior football – it’s usually further down the footballing pyramid, too.
In the case of West Brom, they permitted two players to leave for the same club on deadline day last month, with that exact intention in mind – the only difference is that, with six weeks of the season gone, that duo sit ABOVE Albion in the table.
Sam Field and Jonathan Leko have been enjoying a regular supply of football at Charlton Athletic, who despite only arriving back in the Championship this term, have hit the ground running and are in the play-off places having won four of their first seven games.
To get a better grasp of how the youngsters are doing, we asked Blues writer Brian Dick and Albion boss Slaven Bilic of their opinions and thinking.
Joe Chapman will be covering West Bromwich Albion and providing a regular supply of varied content for the 2019-20 season, as Slaven Bilic looks to guide the club back to the Premier League.
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BIRMINGHAM CITY VERDICT
Our Birmingham City reporter, Brian Dick, was at The Valley last Saturday as Blues prevailed 1-0 thanks to a youngster of their own – Jude Bellingham.
Both Field and Leko started, though both were withdrawn by Lee Bowyer as the Addicks chased the game.
What did Brian make of the young Albion duo?
Of Field, he said: “He had his hands full dealing with the physical challenge of Ivan Sunjic and David Davis and trying to contain the mobility and invention of Dan Crowley. They were tasks he generally found too onerous in what was a quiet if industrious display.”
Brian was a little more impressed by Leko’s showing.
He continued: “Staring up front he found early joy pulling out towards the Birmingham left where his pace caused a few problems for Kristian Pedersen.
“When the ball came up to him he was able to hold it up and bring a team-mate into play. As the first period developed he started to have success getting turned and running at the Blues central defence, which he did on a couple of occasions.
“That sowed a few seeds of concern in the visitors’ rearguard but – and it’s a big but when you’re playing through the middle – there was no end product.
“He snatched at his first attempt, a low cross from the right that found him in space and which he couldn’t direct on target.
“His best opening came later in the opening period when he got turned and advanced up to the D, holding off Davis, only to fire wide when he should have at least hit the target.”
BILIC ON THE PAIR
The Croat, keen to ensure that the pathway to the first team remains open for all youngsters – particularly those that Albion have nurtured and developed – explained his reasoning behind the loaning out of Leko and Field.
“Both of them, Leko and Sam Field – I called them and I had a small chat. We have Paul Terry, who is John Terry’s brother, he’s our loans manager,” he said.
“He’s making reports on them and is looking after them, but also I like to call them. Both of them, I told them it’s the same with Burkey – we didn’t send them there because we gave up on them – on the contrary.
“If I’d given up on them I’d have kept them here, and say let’s stay here so that we’re covered. You aren’t going to play a lot but you’re going to be cover – no. That would have stopped them, they’re young players.
“The plan is to go there, play 90 minutes or 60 minutes, be involved in a team, be part of something, through the ups and downs, be responsible, be an important part of something important.
“Then come back next season, knock on my door and say I want to play – and I’ll be happier than them. They’ve had a top start at Charlton, both of them are playing, the manager is happy with them both and I’m expecting them to continue like this. Maintain, improve.
Where will West Bromwich Albion finish in the 2019-20 season?
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“They’re extremely young players. Make no mistake, with Jonathan Leko it’s not a matter of quality – you can make ten minutes from his three of four games, and it’d be like…wow! He’s a player.
“It’s about consistency. He has to get it and this is a great opportunity for him to get that.
“With Sam Field it’s about minutes. He needs to have that season living and playing with that team. Have the negative pressure on a Saturday that he has to deliver – it’s not Jake Livermore and I’m going to play 20 minutes alongside Jake or Barry or Brunty.
“It’s down to him. You can only get that by playing on a regular basis with that pressure. It’s great they’ve gone to a club that are ready to give them that at the same level that we’re playing.
“It’s an ideal situation. They can’t let this situation that they have slip away from them.”