Garlick believes it's a red-letter day for the club's Academy
SAIDO Berahino has been rewarded with a new-and-improved contract which commits him to the club until June 2017.
The Academy graduate, who made his eighth Barclays Premier League appearance by coming off the bench at Newcastle on Saturday, put pen to paper on his three-and-a-half-year deal at the club’s training ground this morning.
Sporting & Technical Director Richard Garlick said the contract is just reward for the rapid progress the 20-year-old striker has made this year.
He also claimed it is a red-letter day for the club’s Academy, whose staff spotted Berahino as an 11-year-old and nurtured his talent before he advanced into the Development Squad.
“It was always our intention to reward Saido for the huge strides he has made over the past few months,” said Garlick.
“He started to make really positive noises at the start of last season but couldn’t quite break into Steve’s first team.
“But he went out on loan to Peterborough United and did really well. He played games, scored goals and was in a really good place.
“Unfortunately, he picked up a knee injury which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
“But he came back here for his rehab, got his head down and concentrated fully on getting fit and healthy.
“At the moment he peaked in his recovery, the first team reported back for pre-season.
“That meant he hit the ground running and pretty much underwent a second pre-season. He did well in the friendlies before really coming to the fore with his hat-trick against Newport in the Capital One Cup.
“From then on, he hasn’t looked back, scoring his first Premier League goals and hitting the net regularly for England Under-21s.”
Garlick insisted it is important for Berahino’s progress that expectation levels remain at a realistic level and he has urged the forward to simply keep doing what he’s been doing.
“To be able to reward one of our proteges, who has worked his way up through the ranks from the age of 11, is a great moment for the club,” added Garlick.
“It’s a fantastic story for us and especially for our hard-working Academy staff, who have played a fundamental role in his development over the years.
“Producing one or two players who can supplement the first team is something we want to achieve every year.
“We hope this is the start of that process as we feel we have a number of other young, exciting players coming through.
“Saido’s progress should be an inspiration to all of the players within our Academy.
“It’s difficult for any 20-year-old to get into a Premier League side and there are going to be times when Saido’s maybe not playing as much as he would like to.
“He’s not the finished article and he has to remain patient, as we do with him.
“But he has done exceptionally well to get where he is and he now has to focus on what got him here – hard work and keeping his feet on the ground.”