The Boy’s a bit special…George Thorne
For a club like West Brom, it’s difficult to give youngsters their first team opportunity. The Baggies know all too well about relegation from the Premier League, having spent much of the last decade yo-yoing between England’s top flight and the Championship. The knock-on effect from this is that West Brom have struggled to promote youth players into their first team, preferring to fill the squad with new signings who give them a better chance of stabilising their Premier League future.
However, having now firmly cemented their place in the top flight, West Brom are looking to kick on under new manager Steve Clarke. There are a number of talented players coming through the system, but the first one who’ll get his chance in the starting XI is midfielder George Thorne. The 19-year-old has been the Baggies’ brightest prospect for some time now, having made his debut back in 2009 against Sheffield Wednesday, aged just 16 years and 328 days, making him Albion’s youngest ever player. Having signed a professional contract in 2010, he has made six further appearances since then, including four Premier League appearances.
However, his development was helped considerably by a loan spell under former Albion assistant Michael Appleton at Portsmouth last year. In two separate spells for Pompey last season, he made 14 appearances in their midfield and impressed in the centre of the park despite the off-field turmoil the club was enduring at the time. That experience could be vital in aiding Thorne’s bid for a first team spot at the Hawthorns, as the Championship is always a good place to learn your trade as a young midfielder.
Thorne has also impressed in the national colours as well, helping the England U17’s to their first ever European Championship win back in 2010, before making himself a regular in the U19 squad, winning 20 caps for that age group. As soon as he starts making regular appearances in the Premier League, you’d expect Thorne to be fast-tracked into the U21 squad to continue his rise up the Three Lions system. Indeed, if the midfielder continues his current progression, he could be in line to follow in the footsteps of Scott Carson, who became the first Baggie to play for his country in 24 years against Germany back in 2008.
Clarke has confirmed that Thorne is part of his first team plans this season, with a number of central midfield places up for grabs. Keith Andrews and Paul Scharner have both left the club, and although new signing Claudio Yacob is expected to fill the defensive holding role vacated by Scharner, it could well be that Thorne fills the other. He faces some stiff competition for a first team place though; indeed the likes of Youssouf Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans and James Morrison have all impressed in recent times in the centre of the park. Morrison in particular caught the eye last year and Thorne would do well to learn from him, especially as Morrison has worked hard to develop his game to suit the Premier League.
Thorne may not be starting on regular occasions from the outset then and it’s even possible another loan switch could be on the cards, but you’d expect him to be involved with the substitutes from week one. Clarke is unlikely to throw him into the first team mix unless he’s ready, but Thorne will be ready to take his chance once it comes along. It’s looking promising for the West Brom youngsters as Scott Allan and Sam Mantom have also both impressed during pre-season, but Thorne is the name to watch out for at the Hawthorns in the coming year.