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West Brom promotion: Five key Albion men this season

By Joseph Masi | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

It was a real squad effort that saw Albion win promotion to the Premier League.

Who are the men who stood out? (AMA)

But there were some players who went just that little bit further to ensure the Baggies secured a return to English football’s top tier.

Here, Joseph Masi looks at five of them.

Matheus Pereira

West Bromwich Albion's Matheus Pereira

Eight goals and a staggering 20 assists has led to fans and pundits alike hailing Matheus Pereira as the best player in the Championship.

Exquisite close control, a wonderful eye for a pass and a real battler to boot, the 23-year-old is undoubtedly Albion’s talisman.

Initially snapped up on loan from Sporting Lisbon, Pereira’s temporary switch to Nuremberg last season saw him crowned the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year.

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But a reputation for being petulant prevented bigger clubs from looking at him.

Their loss, though, has been Albion’s gain with the samba star immediately settling into life in the West Midlands whilst also proving to be a model pro.

His standout performance arrived in December when he as good as registered five assists as the Baggies thumped Swansea.

That day was the first time Albion fans compared him to the great Laurie Cunningham.

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There can surely be no greater honour and no greater insight into the effect he has had during his first season at The Hawthorns.

Jake Livermore

Jake Livermore of West Bromwich Albion and James Collins of Luton Town. (AMA)

A genuine rival to Pereira for Albion’s player of the year, Livermore has enjoyed an outstanding campaign.

The skipper worked relentlessly last summer to trim down and lose muscle mass - with the 30-year-old realising it was slowing him down when getting around the pitch.

This campaign, though, Livermore has been at his box-to-box best.

Often the man leading the press to ensure Albion win the ball high up the pitch, his energy and work rate are a huge reason why Bilic’s side can play on the front foot.

His standout performance arrived at Bristol City in February with yet another all-action display inspiring his side to a 3-0 win. Speaking post-match, Slaven Bilic hailed the Championship encounter as “Jake’s game.”

A true leader, Livermore is also the man that ensures the Baggies keep their shape and discipline with and without the ball. He is an influential captain.

Grady Diangana

Grady Diangana of West Bromwich Albion. (AMA)

The West Ham loanee had been all set to join Derby before a last-minute phone call from Slaven Bilic convinced him to head to The Hawthorns.

Without doubt a winger of Premier League quality, Diangana burst on the scene when he came off the bench at Luton to net two goals and win Albion the game.

That was his first Baggies appearance in the Championship but the wideman went from strength-to-strength and in total scored eight goals and registered seven assists.

A winger that can play both sides, is a bag of tricks and also works his socks off, Diangana’s talent is abundantly clear to anyone who watches him.

But his impact on this Albion team was hammered home when he picked up a hamstring injury in the 3-2 win over Blues back in December.

With Diangana sidelined, Albion went on a run that saw them pick up just two league wins in seven outings – with that spell seeing their lead in the automatic promotion slots cut from 12 points to two.

It was no coincidence the Baggies’ form dipped as soon as Diangana picked up a knock.

Semi Ajayi

Semi Ajayi of West Bromwich Albion. (AMA)

One of the bests deals Albion have done in recent years, it’s incredible to think they signed Ajayi for just £1.5million last summer.

The Nigerian international has absolutely everything you need to be a top centre-half.

Strong in the air and a player who reads the game well, Ajayi is also quick with that pace the reason why Albion are able to play with a high defensive line.

Whether partnered by Kyle Bartley or Ahmed Hegazi, the centre-back – who stands at six feet and four inches tall – has been an absolute rock.

Ajayi is a huge reason why Albion only lost seven league games all season, the fewest defeats of any team in the division.

He was also part of a defence that – with a measly 18 – conceded the fewest away goals.

Hal Robson-Kanu

Hal Robson-Kanu of West Bromwich Albion celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 0-3. (AMA)

The striker wasn’t at his best when football returned following the coronavirus pandemic.

But prior to lockdown, Robson-Kanu was absolutely essential to how Bilic wanted to play.

The Croatian’s philosophy – when playing his favoured 4-2-3-1 system – is all about getting his wide players into the box.

To do that you need a striker who can not only lead the line, he also also has to be technically good enough to combine with those wingers in and around the area.

Robson-Kanu did that job superbly from October through to March, whilst also hitting double figures for the first time in his career.

That form effectively kept Charlie Austin out the side. But his striking rival had no complaints.

“Hal was faultless for three or four months,” Austin said.

“He scored goals, unbelievable performances and all I could do was back up from the bench and on the training ground.

“What Hal was doing was incredible – the performances he was putting in for the team.”

Joseph Masi

By Joseph Masi
Football MMPJ

West Bromwich Albion reporter.

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