STEVE Clarke has paid Saido Berahino the ultimate compliment by claiming he was unsurprised by his first-half hat-trick heroics in tonight’s 3-0 triumph over Newport.
The 20-year-old Academy product capped a perfect day by following up his second call-up to the England Under-21 squad with a 37-minute treble at The Hawthorns as Albion eased into the Capital One Cup third round.
And Clarke, who paid tribute to the club’s Academy staff for their role in developing the striker from under-12s level, was delighted by the youngster’s display on his full Baggies debut.
“I’m delighted for the boy because he’s worked ever so hard to get his chance,” said Clarke.
“He took his opportunity with both hands tonight.
“Saido was the best player on the pitch in the first half.
“He’s given me a lot to think about and I’m really pleased about that.
“Saido’s a born goalscorer who’s hungry to do well.
“His talent is there and he has played for England at almost every age level.
“Tonight's great for the club because he’s an Academy graduate.
“He’s a credit to Mark Harrison and the rest of his Academy staff.
“It’s a difficult job trying to get a player through any Academy system.
“But they’ve done a great job with Saido.”
Clarke reiterated his desire for Albion to go as far as possible in cup competitions this season ahead of tomorrow's third-round draw.
“I said when I got the job that this is a competition we have to try to do well in,” added Clarke.
“We had a similar fixture last year where we had to go away to Yeovil.
“I made a lot of changes for that game and we got through.
“You have to wait and see who you get in the next round.
“We lost out to Liverpool in the third round and we were really disappointed to be knocked out.
“We will treat every round with the utmost respect and do our best to go as far in the competition as we can.
“If that takes us to the final, then great.”