KEITH Downing believes George Thorne has returned to Albion better equipped for Barclays Premier League football.
The midfielder, who turns 20 next week, was recalled from his loan spell at Championship outfit Peterborough on Thursday to bolster Steve Clarke’s central midfield options.
Claudio Yacob is still sidelined and Youssouf Mulumbu is a major doubt for today’s trip to Manchester United (ko 3pm) due to hamstring problems.
Thorne, who spent the majority of last season on loan in the Championship at Portsmouth, made seven starts for the Posh, scoring his first senior goal in a 5-4 win over Bolton last weekend.
And, with Mulumbu due to join up with DR Congo early next month to begin preparations for the African Nations Cup, Thorne could be more involved.
But Downing has also been quick to praise the performances of Chris Brunt in the centre of the park in the back-to-back victories over Norwich and QPR.
“In the last couple of weeks, with a couple of players being out, it has left a bit of a gap,” said Downing.
“Chris Brunt has gone in there in the last couple of games and done a good job with Youssouf.”
He added: “I have seen a progression in George. He is a more established footballer.
“He is more of a man now and he has more experience and knowledge of the game and playing for the team.
“He understands the game now - but that only comes from playing real football.
“He has good awareness and technical ability and is a good passer, and he also has the ability to be a good screen.
“He sees danger and is learning that all the time.
“He has good maturity for his age and understands the game.
“He knows the next pass and is always a step ahead of the game.”
Ben Foster heads back to his former club today, with his vital last-gasp save at Loftus Road in the 2-1 Boxing Day victory over QPR demonstrating why he earned an instant recall to the Baggies’ starting XI two games ago after injury.
Downing added: “Ben has the potential to do that. We all realise Ben’s qualities.
“But Boaz Myhill deserves a mention.
“Ben would be the first to admit that Boaz went in and did exceptionally well but Ben is a quality keeper, Boaz knows that and that’s why he is No.1 at West Brom.
“Boaz did exceptionally well when called up and we have two quality keepers.”