Saido Berahino, England's danger man
Monday, 5 January 2015
The top marksman in qualifying and a four-goal scorer for West Bromwich Albion FC on Saturday, England's Saido Berahino will carry a major threat at June's U21 finals.
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If the first half of 2014/15 is anything to go by, England should not want for goals at this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
England have scored just three in their last six finals matches, failing to get beyond the group stage in 2011 and 2013, but in Danny Ings, Harry Kane and Saido Berahino they have three Premier League forwards who should ensure history does not repeat itself. The strikers having registered 35 goals between them in all competitions this term.
In the first part of a series focusing on players to watch in the Czech Republic in June, UEFA.com shines the spotlight on West Bromwich Albion FC's Berahino, the ten-goal leading scorer in qualifying.
Clubs: West Bromwich Albion FC, Northampton Town FC (loan), Brentford FC (loan), Peterborough United FC (loan)
UEFA European Under-17 Championship: winner 2010
• Born in Burundi, Berahino joined West Brom's U12 squad in 2004. He had travelled to the United Kingdom alone at the age of ten to join his family, who had been granted political asylum. "It was a huge culture shock because I couldn't speak a word of English and I had to adapt very quickly," Berahino told the Northampton Chronicle & Echo in 2011. "Playing football made it easier for me to settle in and learn the language and I'm lucky I had the talent to get where I am."
• Berahino made his professional debut on loan at English fourth-tier side Northampton in October 2011, scoring the first goal of his senior career three days later. Two months earlier he featured four times at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, where England lost to Nigeria in the round of 16.
• In May 2010, Berahino scored against Turkey on his only outing at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Liechtenstein. England won the tournament, defeating Spain 2-1 in the final.
• Berahino spent more time out on loan in 2012, at Brentford and Peterborough, before he made his debut for West Brom as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Yeovil Town FC.
• The 2013/14 season proved Berahino's breakthrough campaign. It started with him registering a hat-trick on his first West Brom start, against Newport County AFC, and finding the net in each of his first four appearances at U21 level. On a late September afternoon at Old Trafford, Berahino memorably struck the winner in a 2-1 victory against Manchester United FC, one of nine goals he scored during a season in which he signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract.
• Having netted seven Premier League goals in 2014/15 by the end of October, and scored in the first leg of England's U21 play-off versus Croatia, Berahino was rewarded with a place in Roy Hodgson's senior squad for the November encounters with Slovenia and Scotland, though he did not play. Eleven games without a goal, Berahino began 2015 in explosive form, equalising against West Ham United FC on 1 January and scoring four times in a 7-0 FA Cup triumph over Gateshead FC two days later.
"The kid's a very talented lad. He has great ability and scores goals. I'm looking forward to working with him."
West Brom manager Tony Pulis, appointed on 1 January
"People say managers pick teams, but in the end players do. They make themselves selectable and put themselves in a position where they make it impossible to be left out. Saido's in great form and long may it continue."
England U21 manager Gareth Southgate speaking in October 2014
"England gave me a second chance in life and for me to be able to play for them is an incredible feeling. I think I have shown I am a good player. I've a long way to go and a lot to learn as a young player, but I back myself to keep improving with each game."