Roy Hodgson says he can remember the first time he saw Saido Berahino at West Bromwich Albion as a teenager when he decided that the player be promoted immediately to the first team squad – and three and a half years later he has selected him for the England senior squad.
Hodgson said that he first watched Berahino at the West Brom training ground in a reserve team game. The 21-year-old’s family sought political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2003 from Burundi, after his father was killed in the civil war there six years earlier. Since then he has flourished into a prolific goalscorer for the Under-21s, and a first choice for West Brom. Hodgson named Berahino in his squad to face Slovenia in the Euro 2016 qualifier a week on Saturday and Scotland in Glasgow three days’ later.
Hodgson said: “I know him quite well because I brought him into the first team squad at West Brom. Dan Ashworth [then at West Brom, now the Football Association’s director of elite development] has been a very important person in his life. So Dan has seen him grow up all the way. I have seen him in the last couple of years at close quarters.
“What he [Berahino] has is pace, a desire to run beyond defenders and composure when he finds himself one v one with the goalkeeper. Three very good qualities. He would have been in the last squad had it not been that the Under-21s have these two very important qualifiers so like with Luke Shaw we gave up his services.
“Now that is no longer necessary I think it is the right moment to bring him in, and (a) reward what he has done so far this season with West Brom, the Under-21s with a call up to the senior squad and (b) let him know there are opportunities there to be grasped. We will see how he gets on in the course of the week.
“Dan ‘wised me up’ in relation to his past … I was always of course very interested in the development of him and George Thorne. At the time to be fair I don’t think they were knocking on the door of the first team. George to an extent because he was stronger and older, more than Saido. I would like to think I gave them of my time.”Reuse content