Is this Liverpool target simply misunderstood?

Saido Berahino – a young English striker who has talent in abundance, so what’s going wrong?

The West Brom striker has had various disciplinary problems, which collectively have understandably led to questioning. Having received an England squad call-up at just 21, Berahino has vast potential to improve, but could his attitude stunt this development?

Berahino has recently accumulated an unfortunate list of events that, when combined, do not read well. The striker has reported late for three West Brom matches this season, most recently the game against Manchester City on Boxing Day. This is the height of ill-discipline, and compounded the bad publicity from an arrest in October for drink-driving at high speed. That kind of behaviour is selfish and inexcusable – the former can damage team harmony, the latter can kill people, just ask Luke McCormick.

West Brom postponed new contracts talks after the drink-driving incident, understandably fuelling speculation that Berahino, or more likely his agent, is already plotting an imminent exit in January or the summer.

Prior to four goals in the FA Cup third round against Gateshead last weekend, the striker’s form had dropped significantly. Though Berahino showed his talent, his refusal to celebrate when scoring any of these goals suggested all is still far from well. The sulking and negative body language, with not a hint of joy, was disrespectful from the striker, particularly as it was the Non-League club’s big day out. It suggested that he didn’t even think goals against Non-League sides was worth celebrating, thus disrespecting the spirit upon which the FA Cup is founded. It was nice to see Berahino back to celebrating when scoring a crucial winning goal for the Baggies against Hull most yesterday.

Berahino has certainly had his fair share of coverage that suggests a problematic attitude, though there are potential places for help. New West Brom manager Tony Pulis has already praised Berahino as being “absolutely smashing” and “last off the training ground every time, doing a bit extra.” The experienced Pulis appears a good man to help Berahino return to former glories through his extensive years in management.

Pulis may well encourage the striker to seek the advice of experienced players too, regarding producing performances and handling such a rapid rise, which we must not forgot Berahino has had. The striker has had to grow up fast under the intense scrutiny of the British press, though there is clearly another side to him.

Berahino had a difficult start in life, fleeing his homeland of Burundi, where violence and poverty was rife, with his father dying in the civil war. Escaping to the UK and raised by his mother, the story of moving from this background to regular Premier League goalscorer is a fairytale. The adjustment is so vast it is beyond words that the lad deserves some forgiveness and the right support to develop as a person – it is ridiculous to expect him to have everything sorted at 21.

West Brom and Saido himself deserve mutual appreciation for reaching this point from the hugely troubled and quiet 12 year-old that joined their academy. Now let’s support Berahino, a bright young English talent, rather than crushing him under weight of expectation – too many predecessors have failed to fulfil their potential.

Hopefully then we will start to see the real Saido Berahino stand up.

 


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