England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate today played down the prospect of Albion’s Saido Berahino gatecrashing Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans.
But Southgate insisted Berahino’s flying start to his Under-21s career can help him develop as a Premier League star with the Baggies.
The 20-year-old Hawthorns man scored twice in Tuesday’s 5-0 hammering of Lithuania to take his tally for Southgate’s men to four goals in three games.
But, despite bookmakers offering 20/1 on him making Hodgson’s squad for Brazil, Southgate is reluctant to see the Baggies man rushed into contention.
“Realistically, if I am looking at what is right for the players, I am not sure I would take any of them because I think there is such a long way for them to go and so much more for them to learn,” said Southgate.
“What happens in the next months, who knows, in terms of the progress they may make? But there are some very experienced players ahead of them at the moment in possession of the shirts. Of course we want to progress them as quickly as possible.
“If anyone gets in the squad then brilliant, I will be delighted for them. But the reality of it is they have a lot of learning to do. The more they do that out of the spotlight the better.
“It (the World Cup) is always an incentive but you can’t look too far ahead. None of them are anywhere near the finished article, there is a lot of hard work ahead.”
Berahino has combined his impressive England form with a superb start to his full Albion career, netting a hat-trick on his debut against Newport County before scoring the winner – his first Premier League goal – at Manchester United.
“Hopefully when Saido scored a couple of goals for us last month he went back to his club in good spirits,” said Southgate. “You want them to all go back in that way.”
Naturally there will be a couple of them that didn’t get a start who go back a bit disappointed.”
“That’s the difficult part and the part I don’t like but that’s the reality of it, you can’t send them all back on a high.”