Berahino urged to make most of experience
SAIDO Berahino could become Albion's first outfield England international since Steve Hunt in 1984.
Cyrille Regis was the last Baggies striker to wear the Three Lions shirt.
The Hawthorns legend, who won five caps for his country, tells us his memories of representing England and what Berahino can come to expect.
Q. So, Cyrille, you got your first senior England cap in February 1982. How did you find out?
A. It was against Northern Ireland. I can't recall how I found out - it might have been Ronnie Allen (Albion boss) who informed me - but I do recall getting a letter through the post. There was a note inside: 'If you put one foot on that Wembley turf you'll get one of these.' I looked inside the envelope and there was a bullet. But, for me personally? The feeling was of immense pride, joy and excitement. I'd already played for the Under-21s and the B team. But this was the full squad.
Q. What was it like pulling on that England jersey for the first time in a full international?
A. I was named as substitute for the game. I came on for Trevor Francis in the final 25 minutes and my lasting emotion is that here I was, a young lad who came to England as an immigrant as a child - I didn't speak a word of English - and I'd been on a building site...now I was representing the country who gave me a home. It was a proud moment.
Q. Was it all the more special given the circumstances of how you came to be in England?
A. Absolutely. England had given us a home and I regarded myself as British. Four years earlier I had a chance to go to Saint-Etienne and part of that plan was to eventually be integrated into the France side. But that was a non-starter. I was British. I was only ever going to play for England.
Q. What could Saido expect when he linked up with England for the first time? What memories do you have?
A. I recall reporting to a hotel in Cockfosters on a Sunday night after a game against Everton. You get there and it's full of people who are household names, regulars, with hundreds of caps between them. The squad included peoplelike Kevin Keegan, Peter Shilton, Tony Woodcock, Paul Mariner, all experienced internationals. I'd played against them many times but I didn't know them, their style of play or how they play. You need to quickly get to grips with how players tick. It's like being put into a new side and knowing you might only get one shot to impress. That's something Saido will need to pick up: he'll be among the very best players. He needs to learn from them. How they conduct themselves professionally, what they have done to get there in the first place and what he can learn to ensure he gets picked again.
Q. What can Saido take from this call-up?
A. The key isn't just to get picked - the challenge is to make sure you're picked for your second, third, fourth caps. As a footballer the period from when he finds out he's selected for the squad to the first game will be all adrenalin. But he might not play. And you have to adjust your mindset to that as well. Personally I was just happy to be a substitute for my debut, being able to sit there, taking it all in. It's all experience. Learning from the best, coping with pressure, dealing with intensity at the very highest level. Saido has got to believe he deserves to be be there just as he has throughout his spell at Albion. He has to believe he can flourish. If he doesn't, he won't.
Q. What does Saido's call-up mean for West Bromwich Albion?
A. It's huge. And it should be celebrated. It's a massive message for Albion and the whole academy that tells the young lads: 'Yes, you can reach the very top ...here's someone who has done it.' Berahino's call up opens up a pathway for future players. Everyone connected with Saido should be very proud.