Former West Bromwich Albion striker Kevin Phillips has admitted he never thought Stoke City midfielder Romaine Sawyers had goalscoring prowess in his locker, speaking in an interview with West Brom News.
The 29-year-old was shipped out temporarily from the Baggies by then-new manager Valerien Ismael to the Potters in August, joining the fellow Championship side on a season-long loan deal with the potential of winning regular game time at the bet365 Stadium.
Despite their lack of midfield options at the beginning of the summer, the signing of Alex Mowatt and reintroduction of captain Jake Livermore left Sawyers out in the cold at The Hawthorns, with Jayson Molumby arriving on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion after his departure and Robert Snodgrass returning from injury and filling in at the heart of midfield.
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Sawyers has enjoyed regular football in Staffordshire since his arrival in the summer, making 13 competitive appearances during his time there so far and adapting well to life under Michael O’Neill.
Like parent club West Brom, Stoke are also looking for promotion to the Premier League after making a fast start to the campaign, losing momentum since but still looking rejuvenated from a productive summer and a system change.
The midfielder has scored twice in his last three games, getting on the scoresheet in losses against Millwall and top-flight outfit Brentford and suddenly looking like a threat going forward.
Ex-Baggie Phillips, who has been a coach at Stoke since, has admitted his surprise at the 29-year-old’s goalscoring form at the bet365 Stadium, as he spoke to West Brom News about his recent form.
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The 48-year-old said: “He’s not a goalscorer, I only associate Sawyers with that sitting midfield role who tries to break lines with his passes and breaking up play. But he’s shown lately he’s got an eye for goal.
“I’ve always said I like him. He started well at West Brom but then faded but he’s now added another side to his game and we’re starting to see that.
“I never knew he could score like that but he’s shown he’s got that in his game now.
“From his point of view, it’s really good.”
Romaine Sawyers has shown the right attitude during his time at Stoke so far, not feeling resentment towards his exclusion at West Brom but knuckling down and getting into goalscoring form at Stoke.
For the Potters, that can only help in their quest to get back into the promotion mix, something they will be craving after making such a promising start to the season.
For the Baggies, unfortunately that won’t maximise his valuation with his contract expiring at the end of the season, although they may decide to offer him fresh terms if he excels enough under O’Neill, something that’s possible considering the Staffordshire side’s promise and potential.
As Phillips said, Sawyers mainly sprays the ball about and breaks up play as a less glamorous job, but this addition of goalscoring prowess to his repertoire will do no harm for his confidence and after being left out in the cold by the Baggies, this is exactly what he needs throughout this season and beyond.
At the end of the season, he will then have the opportunity to decide where his future lies, a sense of freedom that could allow him to make the best decision for his career as he approaches his thirties.