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West Brom's Ainsley Maitland-Niles central goal is still a big surprise to Sam Allardyce

He earned a place in the England squad because of his impressive performances at wing-back.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up. (AMA)
Ainsley Maitland-Niles of West Bromwich Albion during the pre-match warm up. (AMA)

So even Albion boss Sam Allardyce was left surprised when Ainsley Maitlaind-Niles told him he is determined to play in central midfield.

The 23-year-old joined the Baggies on loan from Arsenal in February and has impressed in 11 outings for the club.

There are many Arsenal fans who believe Maitlaind-Niles would now be a regular at the club if he accepted his future lies at either full-back or wing-back.

But his desire to play in the middle of the park led to a lack of first-team opportunities at the Emirates – with the London-born star then requesting a loan move in order to find regular football.

Maitland-Niles had offers from the likes of Southampton, Newcastle and Leicester back in January.

But those clubs also saw him as a defender. That led to him joining the Baggies after Allardyce told him he would get an opportunity to impress in midfield.

Even the 66-year-old was surprised, though, at just how determined Maitland-Niles is to play centrally.

“I spoke to Ainsley and asked him where do you want to play and what is your favourite position?” Allardyce said. “The reason Ainsley chose West Brom was because he said: ‘I play in midfield I want to play in midfield, I don’t want to play at full-back.

“That was a little bit surprising to me because he has played a lot for Arsenal at full-back and he’s actually played for England there.

“But he said midfield is his favourite position and that is where wants to be.

“I said I can’t 100 per cent guarantee that is where you are going to play.

“But I told him that is where he will start and that, like everybody else, his performances will determine whether or not he stays in that position and in the team.

“His performances have grown over the last few weeks.

“I believe he is enjoying his football.

“Even in these difficult times he is enjoying being a first-team member and playing on a regular basis. And he has, over the last 10, 11, 12 games, helped improve our performances.

“It’s just a shame we haven’t got the wins we would have liked.”

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