When Saido Berahino came on as a second half substitute at St James Park earlier this month, you would have been forgiven if you’d wondered why anyone would have taken him on a free transfer, never mind a bidding war starting at £20m+.
However, making only his second Premier League start in four months, both Berahino and West Brom looked a completely different proposition on Saturday.
Their pacey attacking play condemned Alan Pardew to his tenth league win in a row without a win, as the Baggies blew them away with three goals in the opening half hour.
The pick of those goals was a flowing move which ended with a wonderful flighted ball that Berahino ran onto in the box and as it dropped over his shoulder he executed a superb left foot volleyed finish.
That goal proved to be the winner as West Brom went sloppy and allowed Palace back in with a couple of poor goals via slack defending but in that moment, Berahino showed pretty much all the things Newcastle are lacking in their strikers.
His pace always a threat to Palace, Berahino’s direct play always likely to see him getting on the end of something, whilst his actual finish was really special.
Last week Newcastle reiterated that they had offered a record fee for Berahino in the minutes of the Fans Forum meeting, citing West Brom not willing to sell in January.
After Saturday’s win, Tony Pulis said that if Saido Berahino keeps playing like that then all his ambitions can come true, including a move.
However, he added that Berahino sees his future at a top four club, rather than a bottom four club as Newcastle are at the minute…
The striker looks sure to move in the summer and IF Newcastle stay up and IF they are willing to meet the asking price, then it could well come down to whoever else is ready to pay the price tag.
In United’s position it isn’t inconceivable that they could be ready to outbid everybody else, as at last the penny might have dropped that without a real quality goal scorer, Newcastle will be condemned to permanent struggle.
First things first though and while the Baggies made themselves all but safe with Saturday’s win taking them to 35 points, Newcastle have to start and help themselves, rather than relying on the likes of Sunderland, Norwich and Swansea to keep throwing away opportunities to leave them stranded at the bottom.
Watching the battering Newcastle gave West Brom in that win this month makes it all the more frustrating that United find themselves in this dire position, though the 1-0 scoreline that day despite the total domination tells us exactly what Newcastle are missing the most.
Roll on the summer…and safety, and ambition, hopefully.
“If Berahino plays half the season now like he did (v Palace), everybody will start talking about him. His mind is clear and he is set on his football again.
“I have had lots of conversations with him. It has not been a short period. This has been over three windows. Every window that opens up, he gets driven in a direction that maybe a more experienced or stronger character would deal with.
“He is a young lad, and he speaks to a lot of people and a lot speak to him. He gets pushed from pillar to post. You can speak to him, you think you have got him, and all of a sudden you lose him again.
“He is not a bad lad. I have been round to his house, I have met his mum, they are nice people.
“The most important thing is that he has a God-given gift and he should squeeze the pips from it, and have a great, great career.
“Everything will follow, whether now, tomorrow or the next day. If he is playing well, he will get the recognition. And the move. He wants to play for a top four team.
“I don’t think it is the money, it is the opportunity and the chance to show how good he is. You can’t take that from the boy. You can’t tell him not to want that.
“It makes people become stronger and better. He is a driven person, he has that ambition. You don’t want to take that from him.
“He can’t go anywhere, he is with us now, and he has to get himself fit and put himself in that position again that he was last summer. If it happens, it happens. If not, he has to keep playing and that is what he has done.”