Albion striker reveals his highlight of 2013/14 (FREE VIDEO)
SAIDO Berahino admits he could never have anticipated the success he achieved in his breakthrough season at Albion.
This time last year the 20-year-old had managed just a single Capital One Cup substitute appearance for the Baggies, coupled with loan spells at Northampton, Brentford and Peterborough.
He was also nursing a troublesome knee injury which had cut short his stay at London Road.
But the Academy graduate regained his fitness and was thrust into the spotlight when he bagged a first-half hat-trick on his full Albion debut to secure a 3-0 League Cup success at home to Newport at the start of last term.
He subsequently became an integral part of Albion’s first-team squad – bagging a total of nine goals in 35 outings to finish as leading scorer and also collect the club’s Young Player of the Season award.
His contribution played a big part as the Black Country outfit avoided relegation from the Barclays Premier League and, having also made a goalscoring England Under-21 debut, Berahino is left to reflect on a campaign which has exceeded his expectations.
"It’s been a crazy season with ups and downs; my breakthrough into the first team, which I didn’t expect to go the way it did,” he said.
“I thank God for everything that’s happened and I’m here because of the hard work and the dedication I’ve put in and the help of team-mates, staff and also the fans for making it easy for me to go out and perform.”
Asked whether he could have imagined such success when going through his rehabilitation work last summer, Berahino replied: “None of that at all.
“I think the only thing that was going through my head at the time was just to get back stronger, come back fitter and prove everyone wrong who thought the injury would keep me out and I wouldn’t come back the same.
“I was having my own battles in my head but I didn’t imagine it to go the way it has.
“I just thank God for giving me so much strength to come back stronger and hungrier.
“The way it’s gone has just been brilliant.”
Berahino is now enjoying a well-deserved break after a long campaign which only came to a conclusion on Sunday as England Under-20s finished in fourth place at the prestigious Toulon Tournament.
It was another highlight in a season full of memorable moments.
A stunning winner against Manchester United to secure Albion’s first victory at Old Trafford since 1978 as well as a crucial goal to clinch a pivotal 1-0 home success over West Ham are just two.
But Berahino is in no doubt about his favourite.
“I think the best moment for me was scoring my hat-trick against Newport with my mother there,” he said.
“It put me on the map, really.
“I think some people may have said the Man Utd goal but I think scoring the hat-trick, the way I did in the first half - it was really a great night for me.”
Some observers will also point to the 1-0 victory at home to Newcastle on New Year’s Day as a key moment in the youngster’s coming of age.
Albion won a penalty with the score goalless heading into the final couple of minutes.
Despite the presence of a host of seasoned professionals in the home ranks, substitute Berahino grabbed the ball and slammed home the winning spot-kick in front of a packed Birmingham Road End.
“That day I was feeling really confident,” he recalls.
“I remember having a chat with Keith (Downing) before the game and I was surprised I wasn’t starting but I got the call at half-time.
“When the penalty came I just thought ‘why not? I haven’t missed a penalty this season, I have taken two already’.
"So I took it.
"And I thank the senior pros for letting me do it as well because I think some wanted to take it but because I was confident and they could see it in my face they allowed me to take it.”