Saido’s Saga – Q&A ft. Read West Brom
After years of transfer speculation, a couple of tantrums and a short journey up the M6, Saido Berahino finally moved away from West Bromwich Albion. He joined the Potters in a deal which could excess £15m and has signed a five-and-a-half year deal. Most Stoke fans seem delighted that the club have brought in a young, mobile, proven Premier League goalscorer; especially as Saido’s caught the eye of manager Mark Hughes for some time now. For the recipient club and the player, it seems like a happy ending to an elongated tale; but how do Baggies fans feel about the episode? I got in touch with Alex Newton from Read West Brom and asked him to divulge his feelings about how Saido was brought through the ranks, how the transfer talk looked from the other side of the glass and what we can expect from our new recruit.
Can you tell us about the emergence of Berahino, particularly during the 2013/14 season and your first impressions of him?
Saido Berahino burst onto the scene early in the 2013/14 season with a hat-trick in the second round of the then Capital One Cup against Newport. This saw him open the eyes of the Albion fans and management. A month later he made national headlines with a goal against Arsenal in the next round of the cup, then just three days later scoring the winner at Old Trafford as the Baggies recorded a 2-1 victory.
In his debut season in the Albion first team, he went on to score nine goals which saw him end the season top scorer at the club. He was a breath of fresh air into the team, and you could see he was a special talent. Everytime he started you feel he was going to do something special, nobody knew how to play against him.
Saido then went on to have an incredible 2014/15. How was it from a Baggie’s perspective?
As a young Albion fan, it’s almost hard to put into words how good Saido’s 2014/15 season was. I’d never seen anything like it. Eight goals in his first eleven appearances of the season saw him on every back page in the country. We were proud this talent who worked his way through the academy was getting national recognition.
That winter was when the first rumours started to circulate about him leaving. There were breakdowns in contract talks, and he refused to celebrate a hat-trick in the FA Cup against Gateshead. He finished the season with 20 goals and the Players’ player of the year award. Froma fans view it was brilliant it be watching this talent play week in, week out but you felt the transfer talk would only increase over the summer.
On the field, what are his best qualities? What/who was it at West Brom brought the best out of him?
He’s very much a form player. If you take a look at when he scored his goals at West Brom a lot of them came in bunches. He’s quick, tricky and a natural finisher. If I had to liken him to a player i’d say Jermain Defoe. You know what you’re going to get with him. A defender’s nightmare and a natural finisher.
The academy staff have to be recognised for their work with Saido Berahino. Everybody has heard his story coming from war-torn Burundi and everybody at the club deserve a lot of credit. Steve Clarke also deserves a special mention for persisting with Saido in the first team.
For anyone that’s unaware, can you describe some of Saido’s problems off the field?
Where to start? I think it has been pretty well documented in the press as they love a story like this. Nobody truly knows what went on in his head but we could see how he wanted it to be perceived. There’s been drink driving, nasty tweets, poor training and more.
What was it like seeing these problems from a West Brom point of view, particularly his reaction to the transfer talk? Do you think he was being fair to either the club or himself?
It’s a tough one to say because nobody will ever know what really went on behind closed doors. I think the club were in the wrong to not accept Tottenham’s bid in the region of £20 million. There’s blame at both parties but I think Saido would have done himself a favour by keeping quiet. You could see this coming a mile off though.
Considering the ejection from the first team despite persistently keeping him at the club, do you think West Brom’s treatment of him was been fair?
Once the window’s closed there’s not too much that could have been done. It was obvious he didn’t want to play so I can’t blame the club. With somebody like Pulis in charge who is very set in his ways it wasn’t a surprise to see him frozen out.
His saga is finally over, what’s your final thoughts on the whole situation? Are fans happy he’s gone? Should he have stayed? Should he have left sooner (and for potentially more money)?
In a perfect world we’d have got £20 million for him from Tottenham 18 months ago. A little part of me will always be said to see him go as he gave us some fantastic memories. The majority of fans seem happy that the saga is finally over as it was obvious there was no way back for him.
Finally, have you got any concluding opinions, good or bad, on Berahino or predictions for his future for Stoke fans to consider?
I think Stoke is a sideways step in terms of club quality but if he’s going to get regular game time it’s the right move for him. At 23 he still has time on his side it’s just the attitude Stoke now have to deal with. Almost like a young Mario Balotelli he has all the talent but a poor attitude that plagues it. I think he’ll do well for Stoke and he’ll score 15 goals in all comps during a full season easily. It’s just if he starts to feel like a big fish in a small pond again after a couple of years.
So, there we have it. It seems like Albion are disappointed that Saido didn’t apply his full efforts into their club and was susceptible into making questionable decisions when thrown into the limelight as a young man. If Stoke can work with Berahino, help him to forget about the past two years and rekindle the dazzling form that saw him bag a shedload of goals for West Brom in such a small amount of time: Stoke could finally have the answer to their cutting edge woes. We’ve managed to focus the attention of previous troubled footballers, such as Matthew Etherington and Marko Arnautovic, in years gone by; so the potential is there to make as much of a success out of Saido than the two Potters legends just mentioned.
Maybe, just maybe, Stoke and Saido can both finally find their ‘happily ever after’.
A huge thank you to Alex Newton (@AlexRobNewton), editor of Read West Brom (@ReadWestBrom), for taking part in the Q&A. You can find more information on Berahino, and the strikers West Brom are looking to replace him with, over at readwestbrom.com.
Interview conducted by Ben Rowley
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