West Brom believe extra creativity will spark Grady Diananga
He’s the man Albion fans are desperate to see succeed – while Steve Bruce has described him as his ‘biggest challenge.’
Grady Diangana is without doubt one of the most talented players in the Championship.
Baggies fans know that after watching him dazzle under Slaven Bilic during the 2019/20 promotion winning campaign.
But for the past two years, Diangana hasn’t got anywhere near those heights.
And you get the feeling this pre-season is going to be crucial when it comes to the 24-year-old’s Albion future.
The Express & Star understands there are clubs weighing up whether to make a loan move for the former West Ham man this summer.
But Diangana has returned to training in excellent condition having spent the close season bulking up.
And there is a school of thought inside the club that the winger’s form has suffered in recent years due to a lack of creative talent around him.
Albion fans will always remember Diangana combining with Matheus Pereira to tear Championship teams to shreds a few years ago.
And the additions of Jed Wallace – and in particular John Swift – could play a key role in helping him get back to his best.
That is certainly the view of chief executive Ron Gourlay, who believes Diangana plays better with better players around him.
“Sometimes you have players who need more quality around them to unlock (their potential),” said Gourlay, who has also worked for Manchester United, Chelsea and Reading.
“He (Diangana) can see things, he can do things, but if others around you don’t see it and don’t do it at the same time...
“In my Chelsea days, if you put (Eden) Hazard in an average team, then Hazard isn’t going to unlock teams.
“Put him in with quality, and his decision making improves.
“Somebody like Swifty is very creative. He’s the kind of player who can make passes without looking up.
“I’ve known him since his academy days at Chelsea. He’s always been on my radar.
“Jed is just quality, his attitude is amazing. He’ll bring a lot of fight to the club.
“We didn’t have enough creative players last season.
“With Pereira going last summer, that took something away from Diangana.
“Those two seemed to hit it off, when you have two creative players in the middle, they tend to work together.
“I think everyone knows we didn’t have enough creativity last season.
“We wanted to add creativity to the squad.”
Bruce too believes the additions of Swift and Wallace can help Diangana return to top form.
“Since I’ve walked through the door, the biggest challenge of all has been how can I get Grady firing in the way he was two years ago,” the boss said.
“He’s worked extremely hard this summer, he’s bulked up a little bit.
“Now that’s my challenge, can we reignite him?
“With the additions of Swift and Wallace, I hope they can help Diangana.
“We seriously lacked creativity last year. But they are two top Championship players who are only going to improve us.”
Diangana himself, meanwhile, is confident the work he has been doing over the summer will stand him in good stead for the new season.
“I made sure I was prepared in the weeks building up to pre-season,” the forward said.
“I got myself ready so it wouldn’t be a shock to the system and I’m feeling ready to go now.
“Personally, it’s been about just understanding my body and where I need to get to, conditioning my muscles to become stronger and quicker to be able to keep going game-after-game.”
Diangana had time to get to know both Swift and Wallace during Albion’s recent trip to Portugal.
“I’ve played against the new boys who have come in a few times in the past,” he continued.
“They’ve been working hard and me and Jed worked hard together to get through the running.
“There was a lot of running in Portugal, but it’s good to get that in your legs so when the season starts it isn’t a shock to the system.
“It’s been great getting to know them both and they’re going to be great additions to the side.
“It’s healthy having competition in this attacking places because it drives everyone to be the best they can.
“Getting the best out of everyone will help us as we look to try and gain promotion this year.”