While the hamstring injury sustained by West Bromwich Albion’s £7m January signing Daryl Dike, which looks set to keep the Baggies centre-forward sidelined until after the March international break will have undoubtedly come as a huge blow to Albion, the USA international’s unavailability could bring with it a significant silver lining.
Indeed, while Andy Carroll was brought in as a short-term replacement for the stricken 21-year-old, Dike’s injury could also pave the way for one of West Brom’s most exciting up and coming talents to seal a regular place in Steve Bruce’s first-team squad – in the shape of Reyes Cleary.
Despite the fact that the 17-year-old has so far played just 20 minutes of senior football in his career, there is nevertheless a substantial amount of excitement surrounding the centre-forward’s potential – something which has already reportedly led to Bayern Munich taking an interest in the teenager.
And, it is not difficult to see why there is a buzz around Cleary, as, despite his tender age, the forward has been in breathtaking goalscoring form for the Baggies youth sides this season.
Indeed, over his seven U18 Premier League appearances this term, the Englishman has scored a rather extraordinary ten goals and registered one assist, adding a further three goals over two FA Youth Cup fixtures for Albion U18s.
Furthermore, the youngster who has already been compared to former West Brom loanee Romelu Lukaku has also bagged seven goals and provided one assist over his ten Premier League 2 fixtures for West Brom’s U23 side – taking his total haul for the season to an astonishing 20 goals and two assists in just 20 appearances.
These returns have, rather understandably, led to a considerable amount of praise for Cleary, with Albion U23 coach Richard Beale stating of the Baggies sensation: “He’s a player we’ve got with lots of potential. It’s a big step up, obviously, to first-team football. Reyes knows that, he understands that, and every single day we are working to polish an uncut diamond.”
Meanwhile, the club’s U18s manager said of the 17-year-old: “Reyes is a powerful forward player with an eye for goal and is an excellent finisher.”
As such, it would very much seem that, should Bruce put his faith in Cleary in the absence of Dike, the 61-year-old could well unearth a goalscorer comparable to Callum Wilson – who scored 15 goals over 32 appearances under the former Newcastle United manager – a prospect that is sure to excite everyone involved with West Brom.