West Brom boss Steve Clarke hails Saido Berahino after the young striker’s home debut hat-trick in the Capital One Cup win against Newport County
A Premier League star was born as West Bromwich Albion’s 20-year-old striker Saido Berahino, already with full Football League credentials, hit a hat-trick on his first start for the Baggies in Tuesday evening’s 3-0 Capital One Cup Round 2 victory over League 2 team Newport County.
Burundi-born Berahino, on West Brom’s books since he was 12 after fleeing his war-torn home nation with his mother and siblings, led up to his night of glory with productive loan spells in League 2 with Northampton Town, League 1 at Brentford and last season in the Championship with Peterborough United.
In a combined total of 26 starts with those three clubs the hugely promising youngster hit 12 goals – and he kick-started his West Brom career in even more spectacular fashion, completing his hat-trick in 21 first-half minutes as he introduced himself to the Midland club’s fans on his Hawthorns debut.
Berahino’s only previous senior appearance had been as a substitute in last season’s Capital One Cup Round 1 victory at Yeovil Town. But he looks set to see far more first-team action after a sparkling performance that capped his momentous day, having earlier received a call-up to the England Under-21 team.
Manager Steve Clarke heaped praise on the sharp-shooting youngster, who has come back from a serious stress fracture sustained while at Peterborough.
The 49-year-old said: “I’m absolutely delighted for the boy, he’s worked ever so hard for his chance and he took it with both hands.
“He was doing so well at Peterborough in the Championship last season before he picked up a really nasty injury and was out for seven months. But over the summer he got himself into great shape, he had a really good pre-season and I can’t say I’m too surprised that he came into the side and did so well.”
Berahino’s third goal was a penalty, which he took after grabbing the ball as the spot-kick was awarded. Clarke said: “Nobody else was going to get that ball. That tells you a bit about him – he’s a born goalscorer, he’s hungry to do well and that was an important penalty because we needed a third goal to kill the game.
“That’s what it did, although in the second half Newport came at us and every corner they got, every ball they got into the box, their fans were cheering as though they’d won the cup. I liked the character Newport showed – they could have rolled over in the second half, but they really made us work.”
Clarke will now look keenly at the Round 3 draw as he aims to progress further in a competition which has brought him trips to the Final as assistant manager, first with Chelsea and then at Liverpool, but in which he would now love the chance to lead a team out at Wembley in his own right.
“When I came into this job,” said Clarke, appointed Albion boss 14 months ago, “I said this was a competition we have to try to do well in. When we got knocked out by Liverpool last year we were really disappointed, so this year I want to go as far as we can – and if that takes us to the final, that would be fantastic.”