West Brom V Newcastle at The Hawthorns : Match Preview

31 December 2013 05:31
West Brom V Newcastle - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Downing backing for Berahino

West Brom caretaker manager Keith Downing has backed Saido Berahino to handle the expectations being heaped upon him.

The 20-year-old striker has burst onto the Barclays Premier League scene this season, scoring seven goals, and has even been tipped to win a place in the England World Cup squad under former Baggies boss Roy Hodgson.

He made his first start for nearly a month in the 3-3 draw with West Ham on Saturday and more than justified his inclusion, netting the third goal to earn West Brom a point before being denied a winner by a post.

Downing said: "I'm really pleased. I started here as a youth coach so I know Saido well, I've seen his progression through the age groups and he's a talent, which you've seen against West Ham.

"He's maturing, he's still got a lot to learn, but he's working with good players around him, learning every day. He just has to deal with the success.

"Like anything, you become suddenly a household name and it's difficult for a young boy to get accustomed to that.

"I think he will cope. He's got good people around him. There's me telling him off here and there, keeping him under wraps. He's got to live and learn as he goes along."

Berahino joined Albion soon after moving to the UK from Burundi aged 10 and signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract at the Hawthorns earlier this month.

Following his starring role against the Hammers, Berahino credited his team-mates for helping him learn, in particular Nicolas Anelka, who scored the other two goals at Upton Park.

Downing's biggest decision ahead of Wednesday's clash with Newcastle will be whether to play Anelka following the furore caused by his 'quenelle' goal celebration.

The gesture is controversial in France because of its association with anti-Semitism.

Anelka has stated on Twitter it was nothing more than a dedication to a comedian friend who brought the gesture to prominence but West Brom have conceded it caused offence and he has agreed not to repeat it.

The Football Association is investigating but Anelka is free to play for now.

West Brom have gone nine Premier League games without a victory but they have managed three successive draws against Hull, Tottenham and West Ham.

Downing has already ruled himself out of taking the job on a permanent basis, although the former Cheltenham boss admitted a return to management does appeal.

If Downing decides not to play Anelka then Shane Long should be fit to return after a calf strain. Winger Chris Brunt (back) is also expected to be okay but striker Victor Anichebe (groin) is a major doubt.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew will head into 2014 grateful to be doing so in far happier mood than he was 12 months ago.

The 52-year-old entered 2013 having endured a dreadful November and December in the Barclays Premier League, winning just two of the 11 games his side played and taking only seven points from a possible 33 in the process.

This time around, the Magpies collected 22 of the 30 points they contested during the corresponding period and will negotiate the turn of the year looking towards Europe rather than the Sky Bet Championship.

Pardew said with a smile: "I feel like I am standing on top of the world at the moment compared to where I was last year.

"You have to have faith in your ability and faith in the work that you do.

"As a manager, you know you have ups and downs unless you are at one of the very, very big clubs and are fortunate enough to have the finance to have 22 full internationals, like Manchester City and Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal.

"We haven't got that luxury, so it's not a great day every week, and you have to accept that."

Newcastle, of course, spent significantly during the January transfer window in a bid to stave off relegation, something they only just achieved as they limped over the line at the end of a demoralising season.

But their summer dealings were minimal with loan signing Loic Remy the only man to be added to the senior ranks, much to the disbelief and annoyance of the club's fans.

But the Magpies will run out at West Brom in eighth place having only slipped out of the top six as a result of a 1-0 home defeat by leaders Arsenal on Sunday.

Pardew has no fresh injury problems ahead of the game, but faces a series of decisions over how to give his side the best chance of winning the game.

He restored Cheick Tiote to his engine room after suspension for the clash with the Gunners, but that meant a return to the bench for potential match-winner Hatem Ben Arfa.

Source: PA

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 08:44