Joint-assistant boss says on-loan striker should be in running for PFA Young Player of the Year
ROMELU Lukaku should be one of the favourites to be crowned PFA Young Player of the Year - that’s the verdict of Albion’s joint-assistant head coach Keith Downing.
The on-loan Chelsea striker has been in sparkling form for the Baggies of late, firing six goals in his last seven Barclays Premier League appearances.
The 19-year-old now has 12 strikes to his name this term and is joint-sixth in the top-flight scoring chart.
Only five players from outside the United Kingdom have won the trophy – Harry Kewell, Nicolas Anelka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas – while other former winners include Albion’s own Cyrille Regis, Robbie Fowler, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.
But, if Lukaku can maintain the high standards he has set, he could be on the shortlist of nominees when it is announced in April.
“Rom has got to be up there given his goal record and his contribution, and to say he hasn't made that many starts,” said Downing.
“He has made a big impression to kick-start his career.
“It was important for everybody - West Brom, Chelsea and himself - to get himself into an environment where he is comfortable and can play his football, learn and progress.
“Chelsea have kept him closely monitored and it's been a success for all.
“He's always stated he wants to play games and feel part of it.
“The future will take care of itself but at the moment we're pleased with him and it's been a success.
“I'm pleased for him.
“He's a real worker; it doesn't come through chance but through endeavour.
“He has fitted in well and he's very much part of our group.
“He's very inquisitive and he wants to get better.
"Whether it's a free-kick or a penalty, these things aren't by chance - he works at it.
“He works on his finishing every day and obviously me and Kevin [Keen] are part of the coaching team and we're there to support every player.
“Romelu is no exception - he likes the extra work and does it every day.
“It's not a one off, but a constant.
“Whatever accolades come his way, he deserves it.”
Lukaku is ineligible to face his parent club on Saturday (ko 3pm) and Downing admits the Belgium international will be a big miss for the Stamford Bridge encounter.
“Rom's hit a rich vein of form, which doesn't surprise me,” he added.
“His confidence is high and he'll be disappointed he can't play - though he was aware of it when he came.
"He will be a big miss but it's an opportunity for other guys who are sitting there patiently, the likes of Shane, Markus Rosenberg, Peter, Marco.
“There is enough back-up - but we will miss him.”