James Shan rose to prominence at West Brom because of his ability to develop players. He spent four years as the manager of the club’s U23 side and a player he will know all too well is Finn Azaz.
The attacking midfielder, alongside Jamie Soule, is arguably one of their best academy players and given the opportunities afforded to Rekeem Harper and Kyle Edwards in the first team, is someone that simply has to be brought through.
To give a sense of Azaz’s talent; he made his U23 debut before he’d even featured for the U18s, playing for the first time in December 2016. He then wasn’t to feature for the U18s for another two months.
It’s something that speaks volumes about his ability to adapt at a higher level which could prove key when making the leap into senior football.
Azaz’s ability to pick the ball up and either find a teammate or score himself is what sets him apart. The 18-year-old was one of the star men for West Brom in their run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals this season, scoring three goals during the campaign.
His best performance arguably came versus one of the favourites, Arsenal. Against a talented side containing the likes of Bukayo Saka who has made his senior bow for the Gunners already, the 18-year-old was the star turn leaving defenders in a spin.
His winning goal was symbolic of his performance. The Baggies broke quickly with the youngster at the heart of it, before he found the back of the net confidently from the left-hand side.
He’s played both as a central midfielder and as a No.10 during his short career so far and as a result could be the man to replace Harper if he doesn’t agree to a new deal. It would be bitterly disappointing for West Brom to lose him but Azaz would more than soften the blow.
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The club has struggled in Premier League 2 this term, but at all age levels, he’s still managed to find the net seven times in 25 games.
His ability to arrive late in the penalty area makes him a huge threat and Shan simply has to bring him through into the senior team.