Graeme Jones: Internationals are improving West Brom defender Ahmed Hegazi
Albion assistant Graeme Jones is confident that international duty will have a beneficial impact on Ahmed Hegazi’s continued development.
The Egyptian is the only player of Albion’s current starting XI away on senior international duty during this break, having featured in a resounding 6-0 win over Niger on Saturday in an African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Hegazi started the season in jittery fashion after an extended break following the World Cup, and the concern is that a hectic international schedule will leave him fatigued before Albion’s match with Birmingham City on Friday.
The centre-back has become a crucial part of Darren Moore’s new formation, because he starts attacks from the centre of defence.
He looked vastly improved in the 2-1 win at Stoke City last weekend and Jones believes the 27-year-old is adapting to his new role more and more as each week passes.
And Moore’s assistant, who helped Belgium finish third in the World Cup as part of Roberto Martinez’s backroom staff, believes playing for Egypt will help Hegazi, rather than hinder him.
“Ahmed has got better and better every game,” he said. “He has dropped into a back three and he’s got a greater understanding (of that role).
“You know that’s coming about because of international football so there can be real benefits.”
Jones first came across Hegazi in a friendly shortly before the World Cup, and he still believes international football is a useful arena to hone skills.
“Belgium played against Egypt on June 6 and for him to play against that level of player with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne all on the pitch has helped him,” said Jones.
“I’ve got a greater appreciation for it [international football] now, I used to see it as an absolute nuisance.”
Hegazi is one of the few Albion players away on international duty during this break because Matt Phillips and Oliver Burke both withdrew from Scotland full and under-21 squads through injury.
However, both players are expected to be available for Friday’s trip to St Andrew’s.
Sam Field is currently with the England U20 squad and Rekeem Harper is with England U19s, alongside fellow academy player Nathan Ferguson.