If Saido Berahino achieves his ambition of joining a club at the highest level in the Premier League, he will do so with West Bromwich Albion’s blessing – provided he gives his all to the club between now and when he leaves.
The 22-year-old striker infamously threatened last summer that he would never again play for Albion’s chairman, Jeremy Peace, after his wish to join Tottenham Hotspur was denied. However, he dazzled The Hawthorns with his best performance of the season in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
It was only his second Premier League start in four months after Albion’s manager, Tony Pulis, took a hard-line decision to keep him out of the spotlight. Pulis now says that if Berahino concentrates on playing, the future will unfold as he wants it to.
“Saido has a God-given gift and he should squeeze the pips out of it and have a great, great career,” Pulis said. “Everything will follow, whether it is now, tomorrow or the next day. If he is playing well he will get recognition and if he wants he will play for a top-four team, which is his ambition.
“He wants the chance to show how good he is, playing in a top-four team. That’s what drives him and you can’t take that away from the boy, but he has got to do it in a proper way.
“He is not a bad lad but he speaks to a lot of people and he gets pushed and pulled from pillar to post at times. But his mind is clear now, he is set on his football again and he’s a good player when that happens,” Pulis added.
Berahino contributed to Albion’s three-goal first-half display with an incisive pass in the build-up to Craig Gardner’s opener and a brilliant volley to score the third after Craig Dawson had headed the second; Berahino later hit the joint of post and bar with a curling shot.
Captain Darren Fletcher said Berahino’s relationship with the other players was good: “He’s never been a problem in the dressing room and he’s hungry to do well for us between now and the end of the season.”
A suspected knee ligament injury to Chris Brunt is a worry for Albion, who withstood a Palace comeback inspired by two-goal Connor Wickham. Alan Pardew’s side are now without a win in 10 Premier League matches and wary that their plunge from fifth place to 14th could turn into a battle against relegation.