Hat-trick hero Saido Berahino is already revelling in a “second chance in life” to go with three he took against Newport at The Hawthorns last night.
The 20-year-old striker described his full Baggies debut as “incredible” after his 31-minute treble against Newport fired Steve Clarke’s side into he Capital One Cup’s third round.
Berahino, who arrived from Burundi as a 10-year-old having lost his father in the country’s civil war, revealed his debt of gratitude to his club and England, who gave him a second under-21 call-up hours before yesterday’s match.
“It (the war) is not something I like to talk about but it wasn’t a great experience and I just thank God for giving me another opportunity to come to England and have a different life,” he said.
“It’s been an incredible journey. I had only been playing in England for about a year when I was picked up by West Brom and it’s been unbelievable. West Brom’s played a big role in my life. They have looked after me from a young age and I feel like I owe them something.
“It’s great I got noticed and can play for England too. Even though I’m not British-born I feel English as I have lived here for 10 years. It’s a fantastic place to be.”
Berahino’s feat added the sparkle to an awkward assignment for Albion as they coped easily with Newport’s spirited challenge.
It is unlikely Steve Clarke will call off his search for attacking reinforcements in the Premier League on the back of Berahino’s heroics against limited Welsh opposition. Yet he did more than enough to provide Baggies supporters with reason to be excited by his rich potential.
And he might be needed for a little while longer before the possibility of another loan spell appears after another striker, Matej Vydra, limped off injured before half-time.
Scott Sinclair’s bright debut was another positive, although Diego Lugano at the heart of defence lacked sharpness in his first outing.
Albion made the dream start with Berahino’s first finishing off a fine team move after six minutes.
Sinclair displayed a smart dash between two defenders before sliding in the pass Berahino dispatched coolly beyond Lenny Pidgeley.
Berahino should have made it 2-0 moments later when Sinclair instigated a counter-attack with a pacy run from inside his own half.
He found Graham Dorrans, whose fine reverse pass teed up Berahino, only for the young forward to blast into the side-netting.
But the Baggies doubled their lead on 26 minutes when Berahino fully announced his arrival on the first-team stage. After a couple of square passes found their way to the youngster on the corner of the box, he cut inside and rifled a fabulous drive into the top corner.
And Berahino completed his treble on 36 minutes after Craig Dawson was dragged down by Harry Worley at a corner – the penalty execution was precise.
Amid the excitement, Clarke could have done without the night’s irritations such as Vydra, making his first start, limping off to be replaced by Markus Rosenberg.
Albion were comfortable and should have added more goals. Rosenburg missed a terrific opportunity for his first goal after Graham Dorrans and James Morrison had combined to send him clear.
Clarke, though, could not hide his delight for Berahino.
“He was the best player on the pitch in the first half,” he said. “He tired a bit in the second but so did a few of the others. He’s given me a lot to think about and I’m really pleased about that.”
Albion: Daniels; Jones (Gayle, 71), Lugano, Dawson, Popov; Dorrans, Yacob (Morrison, 64), Brunt; Vydra (Rosenberg, 43), Sinclair, Berahino. Subs not used: Long, Mulumbu, McAuley, Myhill (gk).
Newport: Pidgeley; Jackson, Hughes, Naylor, Worley, Sandell; Chapman (James, 62), Willmott, Minshull (Flynn, 53); Crow (Zebroski, 72), Washington. Subs not used: Pipe, Jolley, Stephens (gk).
Ref: Andy D’Urso (Billericay); Attendance: 8,955.
By Steve Madeley