Daryl Dike was the man in the WBA TV hot seat this week, facing questions on a range of topics.
The American striker discussed his "joy" of playing regularly once again, his mental strength, his relationships with Carlos Corberán and fellow forward Brandon Thomas-Asante, his "special" goals against Sunderland and Reading, the support he receives from back home in the United States and here in England, as well as so much more.
Check out the whole video interview above and the entire Q&A transcript below.
Q: How much joy has being back out on the pitch brought you in the last few months?
A: This is what I’ve been waiting for the past year or so, to be back playing. It’s huge for me, my family, my friends and the fans. It’s brings me so much joy, especially knowing the journey that I’ve had to get to this moment where I’m playing consistently. It makes it even better.
Q: How do you feel physically? Are you at peak condition or is there still more to come from you given the length of time you missed through injury?
A: Honestly, I feel great. When I go out onto the pitch, whether it’s training or a game, I don’t really have any fears anymore. At the beginning, there were important minutes that I needed to get and doubts kind of creep in in terms of what you can do on the field. For me now though, I feel perfectly fine. I feel great and I’m so thankful for that.
Q: Your return to fitness coincided with Carlos Corberán’s arrival at Albion. What is your relationship like with him and how was he in the first few weeks with you in terms of understanding your situation with recent injuries?
A: Him and I have a good relationship. It’s what you want as a player, to have a good relationship with your manager. It certainly helps. At the beginning of the process of him joining, I think he took it upon himself to get to know each player in terms of what they’re like on the pitch, how much recovery time each player needs and the workload that they have. For me, with my injury history here, he wanted to keep me safe, but at the same time, also wanted to put me in the best possible position to be able to play and compete as well as I could. Throughout that process, both the manager and the medical staff have done a brilliant job of preparing me for action and keeping me healthy.
Q: The manager has been at the club for about three months now. From what you’ve seen in that time of him, do you believe Carlos is a coach that can get the best out of you?
A: Of course. Every single training session and every single day he is pushing me to be better. We have individual meetings and group meetings. You can always learn. If you want to learn, he is there for you and he will go out of his way for you. He wants to give you all the tools at his disposal to help you get better as a player. He puts so much effort into everything he does. Not every manager does that. One thing that is incredible about Carlos is how eager he is to help you. It’s all the coaching staff too. They all know what they’re doing. As a younger player, I can’t really ask for much more.
Q: He's changed so much since coming in. We’ve gone from relegation candidates to promotion chasers. Can you tell us what he’s changed in terms of the mentality of the group?
A: One thing is the never give up or give in mentality. He always stresses that and you can see that in our games. From the first minute we’re always trying to be in control of the game. Even when things aren’t going right, we always have a positive mindset. We’re always trying as hard as we can to get results. We want to give our all and that shows in our results. Look at Luton. We went 2-0 down away from home, and maybe earlier in the season, we may have hung our heads and doubted whether we could’ve come back into the game. However, we looked around at each other on the pitch and we knew we could come back into the game. Credit to everyone for that mentality, but the manager is the one that has helped implement that attitude.
Q: Moving on. Talk us through your first goal for the club up at Sunderland in December. It was such an emotional moment, wasn’t it?
A: My first goal. It was... cold! My word, it was cold that night. It was a great ball from Jed Wallace, as always, and I nodded it in. I felt huge relief after I had scored because that’s what you want as a striker, to score goals. I always want to be on the pitch of course, but scoring a goal is something which is very important to me. I turned around and I saw how happy everyone was for me and that made it even better. They had all seen how hard I had worked and they all knew what I had been through to get to that moment. My family, my friends and the fans were all behind me in that moment and it felt great. It was so nice to see how happy and positive they were.
Q: Your first goal at The Hawthorns came a few weeks later against Reading in the opening game of 2023. That must have been another special moment for you?
A: For sure. It’s one thing scoring away, but scoring at home in front our fans and helping the team get another victory and three points was really important. Seeing everyone happy and cheering at The Hawthorns was really nice for me. We won the game and I got the winner. I don’t really think you can ask for much more from a personal point of view. You always want to start the year off in the best possible way – winning, scoring and coming off the pitch healthy. That’s what happened that day.
Q: People may be forgiven for placing a lot of expectation on your shoulders when you first arrived a year ago. You were a big name who joined us from the MLS, but it’s easy to forget you’re still only 22, you’re living away from home and you’ve had injury difficulties. Do you feel as though you are mentally stronger now having gone through all of that?
A: I’m not going to say that I ever wanted to get injured and that’s certainly not what I’m saying here. But, getting injured for such a long time, it made me learn so much more about my own body. It made me learn about what it likes, what it doesn’t like and what it responds well to and what it doesn’t respond well to. On the mental side, I’ve learned how to stay positive and how to think through things and not get down about things and let them eat you alive. I think it would be easy to do that and feel sorry for yourself, rather than thinking about how I’m going to bounce back. I had a strong support group around me. You never want an injury, but at the end of the day, especially at a young age, it’s something that has taught me a lot and I think the lessons I’ve learnt will stay with me for the rest of my career.
Q: What’s support like back home in the United States from family, friends and general football fans who you might bump into now and then?
A: The support is honestly incredible. Here, I have a lot of support from my team-mates and from the fans. People always greet me and they wish me well. I talk to people a lot on social media because I’m big into my social media. Back home, it’s the same thing. Because the States is so big, I think every player has their own story. I think each fan can relate to each player’s story. I guess I have people who kind of relate to my story. It’s nice to hear about their support for me, whether that’s through watching me play football or even something simple like watching one of my TikTok videos. It makes me happy to know that I can have that effect on people and it pushes me to do more. My family are my number one group. I speak with them after every single game. We’ll always call. We talk through the game, even if they know that I’ve had a poor game. They’ll find something to cheer me up. It’s difficult for them to come here but over Christmas and New Year they were here and they caught three games. It was their first time being here and we were all cramped up in my tiny apartment. It was great to have them here because they’ve never seen me in England before. I showed them around and they got to see me play.
Q: You seem to have a special relationship with Brandon Thomas-Asante. We notice you hanging around with him a lot and you guys stay out together doing extra shooting drills after training. You’re of a similar age and you’re at similar stages of your careers, but you’re both fighting for the same spot. What’s that like?
A: Brandon and I get along. He’s my homie. We make jokes all the time and we have very similar interests so I think naturally we just get along. On the pitch, we’re in the same position but I think that’s what makes us both better players. We both want to succeed. I want him to succeed and he wants me to succeed. We push each other every single training session. I think that’s why our bond has grown. Off the pitch we hang out and we’re friends, but on the pitch there is still that little, friendly, competitive nature about us. It drives us both to be better. One game he’ll start and then I’ll start. One game he’ll score and then I’ll score. You can kind of see the competition, but in the same breath, you’ll see the support. After a game, he’ll come and pick me up if I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked. I’ll do the same for him. If he scores a screamer, I’ll be the first person to go and congratulate him and I’ll be super excited for him. That’s just the relationship that we have and I think that relationship is good for the whole team.
Q: How much belief is there in this squad right now?
A: There’s tonnes of belief in this team. We go into every single game thinking that we can win it, and thankfully, we've managed to win nearly every one of them since the manager came in. Those are our expectations now. Before it was about climbing the table, now it’s about going up, and I think we can do that. It’s not even just the players, it’s the staff and the fans, everyone sees it. We need to continue to get better every single game and we need to keep learning.
Q: It's a crazy division the Sky Bet Championship. It’s so tight and there’s only a handful of points separating teams in the play-off positions and the teams down in the middle half of the bottom half. Does that make it more exciting to play in, knowing that if you lose a game there’s always another game coming around quickly?
A: It’s strange because you know that if you lose a game you can drop down a few places, but at the same time, because it’s so close, you know that winning a game can push you right back up and right back into contention. It gives you that extra motivation in the back of your head, but it could also be seen as pressure. If teams are close to you in terms of points, it gives you that determination to know that you have to get the job done. We can’t slow down, even though we’ve had a big winning streak. It’s fun, but it’s chaos. We go into every game knowing it’ll be difficult, whether we’re playing a team in fourth or in 16th. It puts us in a mindset of knowing we always have to be ready to be at our best, no matter what opponent we are facing.