Jones says on-loan striker should be proud of his progress
BILLY Jones insists Romelu Lukaku should have that winning feeling – regardless of whether he bags the PFA Young-Player-of-the-Year Award on Sunday.
The 19-year-old striker has enjoyed a successful season-long loan at The Hawthorns, having top-scored with 13 goals.
Lukaku could become only the second player on Albion’s books to win the YPOTY accolade at London's Grosvenor House Hotel in five days' time, with Cyrille Regis a previous winner in 1978/79.
He is a 28/1 outsider to claim the trophy, with Tottenham’s Gareth Bale the 1/6 odds-on favourite.
But Jones believes the Chelsea forward’s nomination, voted for by his Barclays Premier League peers, is further evidence he has had a successful campaign at B71.
“Rom has done really well,” said Jones.
“He’s got to be really happy to get that pat on the back from his fellow players. It’s a reflection of how well he’s done all season.
“Rom’s been really consistent. He always looks like he’s going to score, is a real threat and a handful for any defender in this league.
“All the lads here want him to win it but there are some very talented players in that group.
“I know he’s not the bookies’ favourite but hopefully he can go on and win it.”
The former-Preston right-back says the sky is the limit for the 6ft3in hitman.
“Rom is still so young, so the potential is there for him to go on and get better and better,” added Jones.
“He’s got everything really – the strength, the hold-up play, the speed and he can out-trick his opponent.
“He is a great finisher as well, with his head or feet.
“The main thing is, for such a young player, he is always willing to learn and is constantly practicing.
“He’s not a lad who just goes home straight after training and isn’t bothered.”
Jones also praised boss Steve Clarke, who is now only one win away from recording Albion’s highest-ever Premier League points total.
Clarke is five games away from completing his first season as a head coach and Jones believes the Scot has made a seamless transition to becoming a No. 1.
“I think everyone would agree he has been great," he added.
“It was a hard job for him to take over from Roy, after how well he did, but he should be really happy with his first season as a gaffer as we look like we’ll be setting more records this season.
“He was really disappointed with our first-half display on Saturday because he sets standards so high and anything below that isn’t acceptable.
“We knew as a group it wasn’t good enough and in the second half we were more like ourselves.
“There are sometimes raised voices, but he expresses himself with how disappointed he is, and we knew in the first half on Saturday that it wasn’t good enough.
“He told us what we needed to do differently and we took that on board.”
The Hawthorns chief confirmed the Baggies are in contract discussions with Shane Long, Youssouf Mulumbu and Gareth McAuley at a recent press conference.
And Jones believes, with morale high in the squad, the club will be doing its upmost to tie down key players to longer deals.
“The club are in negotiations and these are key players that we all want to keep,” he added.
“They are important to the squad and are proven Premier League players.
“I’m sure the chairman and the people at the club are all working very hard to make sure it happens.
“I think everyone is really happy here. That’s the general mood in the squad.
“We are improving year in, year out and that’s what we’re aiming to do again at the end of this season and into next season.”