Comment: If West Brom's woeful league form continues then Sam Field deserves another shot
Sam Field may be living the dream of every Albion fan, but he would be forgiven for feeling a tad frustrated this season.
Back in August, the 19-year-old missed out on a loan to a Championship club because the squad was too thin.
But when Albion signed Grzegorz Krychowiak on loan from Paris Saint-Germain on the penultimate day of the window, it shunted him down the pecking order.
There was not enough time to subsequently get him out on loan and he spent the next nine games back in the under-23s.
When Alan Pardew arrived in November he admitted that Field – who had been successfully restored to the senior team under interim boss Gary Megson – would have to do more than others in his position to convince him.
“You have to respect players who have achieved things and achieved certain standards and give them a little bit more benefit of the doubt,” said Albion's new boss.
Field kept his starting place for the next two games but was hooked at half-time against Swansea at the start of December and hasn’t been seen in the Premier League since.
It’s hard to see, however, what the teenager has done wrong, apart from preferring to play in the only position Albion are currently well-stocked.
He’s up against the Premier League’s all-time record appearance maker, a double Europa League winner, an England international, and a gnarled long-serving destroyer.
Pardew tried to shoe-horn him into the team out on the left wing, but it was clear in that opening half against Swansea that it wasn’t working.
However, there’s a strange quirk in this season that has seen Albion go 20 league games and counting without victory. When Field has been on the pitch, the Baggies haven’t been in a losing position.
He started the opening 1-0 wins over Bournemouth and Burnley, as well as the draws away at Tottenham, home to Newcastle, and home to Crystal Palace. When he was withdrawn at the Liberty Stadium, the scores were level.
What’s more, thanks to his goal against the Magpies, he’s scored as many times in the league this season as Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore, Grzegorz Krychowiak, and Claudio Yacob combined.
Now, statistics can usually be used to prove anything, but it’s not like the team has been carrying Field when he’s on the pitch, and it’s not like he’s made any high-profile mistakes like other, more senior professionals in the squad.
Field is a tidy passer who is comfortable on the ball, and appears to have a welcome knack of arriving in the box at the right time – something his senior team-mates in central midfield seem incapable or unwilling to do.
He also appears to be getting better and better. He was more influential in his four-game burst under Megson and Pardew than he was in the two openers under Tony Pulis.
Pardew’s pragmatism is understandable. Experience is key in the Premier League and the flip-side to this argument is that Barry has been – alongside Chris Brunt – Albion’s best player in recent weeks.
Under the new boss, he has become the player good enough for Manchester City, the player Everton fans couldn’t believe they were letting go.
Krychowiak and Livermore have also improved, and Yacob is usually a reliable enforcer in front of the back four.
Asked about limited game time for Field and 20-year-old Oliver Burke, he said: “I’d love to give those players game experience, in a better scenario that we’re in.
"But we’re in a scenario where we haven’t won for a long time so we have to win a game. What comes first is the football club, everything else is second."
Quite right too. Pardew should do what is best for the team, and just because he's an academy graduate, an Albion supporter, and a fan favourite, it doesn't mean Field should start.
But there is quite a compelling argument to suggest he should be picked on merit alongside Barry.
Performances have got better under Pardew, and the FA Cup victory over Exeter City will hopefully kick-start a run in the league, but up until now the experienced professionals have failed.
Field came off the bench at St James Park last weekend and immediately showed a couple of nice turns.
If this rut in the league continues beyond today’s crucial game with Brighton, then the promising youngster deserves another shot.