Former West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips has revealed he wants to see Baggies winger Grady Diangana in the starting line-up for this afternoon’s tie against Middlesbrough, speaking to West Brom News.
After beginning the 2021/22 campaign as a reasonably regular starter under Valerien Ismael, he has only been limited to cameos in the last three games, coming on for Callum Robinson in the 88th midweek against Hull City, and having virtually no time to make an impact.
However, the West Midlands outfit’s manager has previously stressed the importance of rotating the front three – and with Robinson, Karlan Grant and Matt Phillips starting just a few days ago – the likes of Jordan Hugill and Diangana may get a chance to stake their claim for a regular starting spot.
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Despite the Frenchman’s tendencies to rotate, Grant has shown that you can be a forward and still remain as one of the first names on the teamsheet, with the 24-year-old starting every game for the second-tier side since the Queens Park Rangers tie at the end of September and establishing himself as a key figure in the club’s quest to get back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
With the former Huddersfield Town man scoring seven goals in his last eight games, Diangana is unlikely to displace him after failing to get on the scoresheet this term, but the two other spots are up for grabs as manager Ismael looks to field a fresh side to take on Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough this afternoon.
Ex-Baggie Phillips is one man who believes the winger deserves an extended run in the team despite failing to make the desired impact so far this term – and has recommended that he starts today in what is their final game before the upcoming international break.
Speaking to West Brom News, he said: “I’d like to see Diangana get a run in the side.
“I like him, technically he’s very good. He’s come back after an injury lay-off so I’d like to see him given an opportunity from the start so he can show us what he’s all about.
“However, if Furlong comes back in, I’d be tempted to but (Jordan) Hugill in there because of the set-plays and the throw-ins.
“Boro are a physical side so it wouldn’t surprise me if he went down that route to make their physicality. But I would like to see Diangana have a little run if possible.”
Whether it’s the permanent move that changed his fortunes at The Hawthorns or the initial step up to the Premier League remains to be seen, but he hasn’t been as prolific as he was back in the 2019/20 campaign when he arrived on loan from West Ham United.
Registering eight goals and seven assists during that campaign, he has shown he can be a real force in the second tier and if anything shows the potential he has, just look at the reaction from those associated with West Ham when they found out he would be making a permanent departure.
But this feels like a time when the 23-year-old needs to sink or swim. He has plenty of football left in the tank in terms of his playing career, there are no doubts about that, but he needs to be playing regular football at his age and his performance levels will determine how many minutes he gets.
His mindset will determine his success in the West Midlands because of that. The winger can either choose to be despondent because of his lack of action or get stuck in and compete for a starting spot in every game.
It seems as though he’s doing the latter considering his appearances in the matchday squad, the next step will be taking his next starting opportunity with both hands when he gets it. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him and Hugill start as early as this afternoon.