And Clarke plays down World Cup talk surrounding youngsterSTEVE Clarke says Saido Berahino bursting onto the Barclays Premier League scene has given Albion’s Academy the pick-up they needed.
The Baggies boss admits the loss of 16-year-old starlet Isaiah Brown to Chelsea in the summer was a bitter blow.
But he insists Berahino’s flying start to the season for club and country demonstrates how vital the work of the Academy staff is.
“When a young player is coming through at any club and he’s developed through the Academy it gives everyone a big lift,” said Clarke.
“You can imagine how pleased with themselves the Academy staff are.
“They had a big disappointment in the summer when Chelsea came and took Izzy Brown of us.
“And before the season is four weeks old we have another one that’s come through the Academy as a possible star of the future for the club.
“Everyone in the club has had a big lift from Saido, even the senior players.”
But Clarke has played down talk of Berahino making Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad for Brazil 2014 as he tries to keep the 20-year-old hotshot’s feet on the ground.
“Six weeks ago nobody spoke about Saido,” he added.
“Now people want to put him in the World Cup squad!
“Come on, you have to keep a sense of realism.
“Saido’s had a fantastic start to the season.
“He’s scored some goals for England Under-21s, against opposition that’s not the strongest, it has to be said.
“He’s scored a Premier League goal for us, and he’s doing alright.
“Let’s just give him time to develop and see where his career ends up.
“In football you never say never.
“But at the moment, for me, everyone needs to back off Saido and give him time to grow as a player.
“That’s what I want more than anything.
“I’ll try and look after him, try and rest him at the right time, try and play him in the right games, try and keep his confidence high and not allow him to run away with his emotions or get over-confident and cocky.
“I’ll try and manage him as best as I can.
“Some players develop really young.
“Theo Walcott was coming through as a big star at 16.
“Saido’s taken a little bit longer, he’s 20 now.
“But players develop at different rates.
“Saido’s just a good advert for a good academy system here at Albion.”