West Bromwich Albion have had many players come through their promising academy system, but it isn’t often that they make it in terms of being a first-team regular for several seasons.
They either find a move elsewhere – just like Nathan Ferguson this summer – or just fail to make the cut – like Jonathan Leko, who has recently joined Birmingham City after breaking through a long time ago.
Dara O’Shea is one name that’s broken the trend to become one of Slaven Bilic’s first-choice defenders, especially as he’s able to play both right-back and centre-back.
But for young winger Kyle Edwards it’s been a far harder task. He has the likes of the returning Grady Diangana, Callum Robinson and Matheus Pereira ahead of him in the pecking order, and now he could soon be behind Kamil Grosicki.
The veteran winger put in a masterclass display for Poland as they thrashed Finland 5-1 in a friendly, the Baggies’ 32-year-old pocketed himself a 30-minute hat-trick early in the first half and this will have surely put Bilic on notice going into the fixtures after the international break.
It’s not like he can afford to ignore such a feat given Albion have only picked up one point from their opening four matches.
What is strange is that Edwards only saw his contract extension triggered late on, so he’s effectively playing for a bumper deal in this next season as it was only a one-year add-on.
It certainly shows that Bilic wants to see more from him before dishing out a long-term extension.
His teammate Romaine Sawyers lauded the 22-year-old back in January, speaking to The Athletic he said: “I remember Kyle when he was proper, proper small — he was an unbelievable player even then. Mark Harrison, our old academy manager, told my age group, ‘We’ve got this kid who is 10 years old and this is Messi.’ No word of a lie; I could see the comparison back then. If Kyle’s got videos, I’d urge him to show anybody. He was unbelievable and to see him now in the first team warms my heart.”
However, he’s yet to truly live up to that hype having only scored three goals in the league for the club since his debut.
Last season in the Championship, Edwards averaged just 1.5 dribbles and one shot per game, via WhoScored, so it’s no wonder that Bilic seems a little apprehensive.
Whilst this season, he’s only made one start in the Premier League.
He’s got a lot to prove this season and it’s just been made all that harder by Grosicki’s recent display. He’s a player willing to fight for his place too.
The next few months are going to be his toughest test in his career so far.
AND in other news, Alan Irvine flop has forged a decent career away from the Hawthorns…