THREE victories in the space of eight days and The Hawthorns is a happy place to be once again. Alan Irvine responded to the West Bromwich Albion fansâ€™ requests for a wave, Chris Bruntâ€™s name was chanted and the final whistle was met with cheers on a day when Saido Berahino scored twice to enhance his reputation and open the door to talk of a possible England call-up.
What a change from a couple of weeks ago, when Albion lost 2-0 at home against Everton and were booed off. On that occasion, Brunt, the captain, was jeered by his own supporters and Irvine, an unpopular appointment as head coach in the summer, looked like a man with little goodwill to fall back on and desperate for some respite.
In the blink of an eye Irvine has overseen West Bromâ€™s best run since November 2012 â€“ three successive wins in all competitions â€“ and they are up to 10th in the table after goals from Craig Dawson and Graham Dorrans, either side of Berahinoâ€™s double, helped Albion to beat a toothless and desperately poor Burnley team.
Bigger tests lie ahead for Irvineâ€™s players â€“ Liverpool and Manchester United are up next â€“ but this was a match for Albion, and Berahino in particular, to savour. The 21-year-old has scored five goals this season, including four in the Premier League, which makes him the leading English marksmen. With Ray Lewington, Roy Hodgsonâ€™s assistant, and Gary Neville, the England coach, looking on from the stands, it was not a bad day for Berahino to demonstrate his predatory instincts in front of goal.
Hodgson is aware of Berahino from his time in charge at Albion and the England manager mentioned the forward as a prospect back in December, when the World Cup draw was being made. An England Under-21 international, Berhaino started last season in similar fashion to this one â€“ a year ago to the day he got the winner at Old Trafford to take his tally to five â€“ but he lost his way badly during the second half of the campaign and picked up a reputation for being a difficult character.
Irvine, however, seems to be pressing the right buttons to get the best out of Berahino, and with Hodgsonâ€™s striking options so limited, the possibility of a call-up is not that outlandish.
â€œIf he keeps on playing like that and he keeps on scoring goals, heâ€™ll get all those rewards,â€ Irvine said. â€œI donâ€™t think Roy will be looking and saying heâ€™s too young or anything like that. Heâ€™ll put him in as he has shown already if he feels that he is the best player for the position. But right now, Saidoâ€™s got to keep working the way he does. He stays to do finishing after training every day, and heâ€™s getting the benefits from all of that.â€ â€
While this was a hugely satisfactory result for Irvine, who had maintained after the Everton match that nothing was quite as bad as it seemed, Sean Dyche was unable to take any positives from his heaviest defeat as Burnley manager.
After keeping clean sheets in their previous three games, Burnley were all over the place defensively against Albion and conceded twice from corners. At the other end of the pitch nothing has changed. It is now 616 minutes â€“ dating back to Scott Arfieldâ€™s strike against Chelsea in the opening game of the season â€“ since they scored.
Burnleyâ€™s prospects had looked bleak by half-time. Dawson, a player Burnley had tried to sign in the summer, headed home Bruntâ€™s corner and a second goal soon followed from another training ground routine. This time Dorrans darted to the near post to flick on James Morrisonâ€™s corner for the unmarked Berahino to nod in from inside the six-yard box.
The same two players combined in the 56th minute, when Berahino sprinted on to Dorransâ€™ pass before beating Tom Heaton with an angled shot into the far corner.
With Albion becoming a little complacent, Burnley finally registered a notable attempt on goal when Ben Foster repelled Lukas Jutkiewiczâ€™s powerful header midway through the second half, but normal service resumed late on when Dorrans converted Cristian Gamboaâ€™s cut-back to complete the rout.
â€œThatâ€™s a massive learning curve today,â€ said Dyche, whose team are now bottom. â€œWe were carrying too many players.â€. – The Guardian