After losing several of their most talented youngsters to other clubs over the years, West Bromwich Albion are trying their best to tie down certain players to new deals.
That includes 17-year-old Reyes Cleary, who is scoring for fun for Albion’s development squads and could be on the verge of a first-team call-up, but has the likes of Bayern Munich trying to snatch him from under the noses of the Baggies.
Whilst West Brom can only offer Cleary a professional deal and hope for the best, one man who is already on that kind of contract is Taylor Gardner-Hickman, who has certainly made an impression amongst supporters.
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The versatile right-sided player made his league debut for the club against Hull City earlier this month, stepping in for a suspended Darnell Furlong and the teenager impressed in a 1-0 victory.
He stood aside in the following match to allow for the return of West Brom’s number two but he has impressed enough this season in the under-23’s to come under consideration for a new contract, with The Athletic reporting that talks will soon begin to extend his deal that expires in the summer of 2023.
That decision has been praised by ex-Baggies striker Kevin Phillips who believes the club should have been doing more in the past to keep the most talented young players at the club.
“I think we’ve seen it too often at West Brom and other clubs, letting their younger players go when bigger clubs come sniffing around, so I think you have to have lessons learnt from that,” Phillips said to West Brom News.
“It’s certainly the way forward in terms of clubs finances are tight, especially the likes of West Brom, so they want to get their young players tied down, bleed them through and try to get them into that first team.
“They’ve already done that with this young kid (Gardner-Hickman) and they know he’s an exciting young talent so it’s good to see that the player hopefully wants to sign, stay and fight for a place.
“It’s very good news, for once we’re talking about a player signing a new deal, not looking to get away and sign for someone else.”
Whilst trying to get Reyes Cleary to commit to a pro contract may be more important right now, it’s also equally important to secure the futures of other talents.
Gardner-Hickman may have a contract running until the end of next season but the fact that Valerien Ismael has given him a chance suggests he’s a talent and fans saw him first-hand against Hull.
Obviously he has competition in Darnell Furlong right now but there’s a chance that Gardner-Hickman could gain experience elsewhere in the EFL before coming back in a year or two to fight for his place, providing he sticks around and pens a new deal.
It’s a step forward for the club to be planning in advance though and there will be much hope that Gardner-Hickman extends his contract.