SAIDO BERAHINO: THE
REMARKABLE TALENT, WITH A REMARKABLE STORY
Just over two weeks ago, West Bromwich Albion ended 35 years of misery
in Manchester in spectacular style, with a remarkable 2-1 win over the
Champions. The last time
Albion had won at Old Trafford, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham
and Tony Brown had been stars of the show, and the last time
Albion had won at the home of
the current league champions was during the 1966/67 season. Quite a result.
One of the stars of the show was a little-known, Burundian
born academy kid Saido Berahino - who announced himself on the Premier League
stage in supreme fashion by scoring the winning goal. And what a goal it was -
Berahino sending a fizzing drive into the bottom left hand corner of David De
Gea’s goal from 20 yards, following a lovely touch down by teammate Morgan
Berahino has also been impressing massively for the England
under-21s of late - with four goals in three appearances for the Three Lions,
his match winner against Moldova on his England u-21 debut a particularly eye
So where has this young gem come from? As it turns out,
Berahino has one of the most interesting stories in English football…
As Berahino himself said when speaking to Fourfourtwo
magazine, football was a massive part of his life, even at a very early age:
“Most of the time when I was at school I’d just play football with the other
boys. We used to watch big occasions on TV like the World Cup or the African Cup
of Nations. We looked at the TV and hoped that one day we could get there
ourselves one day.”
Football was somewhat of a distraction for the young Berahino
as he endured a turbulent and unsettling younger life in his native
Burundi. His family was caught
up in the savage conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes and at the age of
just ten years- Berahino fled to England, accompanied by his mother, brother and
sisters in 2002. They were granted political asylum in Newton, a poor district
in Birmingham. Berahino took his fresh start and ran with it…
“The first few years were difficult because I didn’t really
know anything about
England – football-wise or anything. At school, I got to know a few people. I
started playing in five-a-sides, then Sunday league, and then I found myself
getting scouted for West Brom. I used to play for my local team, and the manager
told me I’d been sent to West Brom for a trial. At the time I didn’t really know
who they were, because I didn’t know the English teams apart from the big four.
When I went for a trial I didn’t know what it would be like.
But I got the chance to come here and it was just better (than the club I was
with) It has everything you want: all the coaches are great, it’s good for
working, and you can improve your weaknesses… they care about us making it the
And work is certainly what Berahino has done since his
arrival at West Bromwich Albion centre of excellence back in 2004 at u-12 level.
Berahino has grappled his way up through the ranks with the
Albion until finally starting to
train with the first team at the age of 16.
The improvement made in his game, and his tireless work ethic
meant that he did not go unnoticed by the England Youth setup- and Berahino was
eventually called up into the
England under-17 squad for the
u-17 European Championships in
Berahino played a starring role as England romped to victory in the tournament
(Sunderland forgotten man Conor Wickham scoring the winning goal in the final
against Spain), and it was this tournament that provided a catalyst for his
“It was really amazing. I was sleeping and got a phone call.
I thought I was dreaming or something! It was really good to be involved in that
tournament, especially with players my age. It was a good experience. And
playing at the tournaments with the best players – you can’t ask for more than
The start of the 2011-12 season saw Berahino further his
reputation- scoring 10 goals in 22 games out on loan at
Northampton and Brentford (the
latter loan spell ending abruptly for “personal reasons”). However the arrival
of Steve Clarke as West Bromwich Albion Manager at the start of the 2012/13
season provided Berahino with the first team opportunities he needed to impress
at the Hawthorns.
Clarke provided Berahino with a debut against Yeovil in the
Carling Cup for the first team - before Berahino spent a valuable time out on
loan in the Championship with Peterborough, managing to grab a couple of goals
in limited appearances for the struggling Championship outfit. Then his big
break in the Albion First Team came at the start of the 13/14 season - and
Berahino has taken it with both hands.
Given a rare start against Newport County in the Capital One
Cup, Berahino raced to a first half hat-trick (including one scorching drive
into the top corner from the edge of the box) - and spring-boarded his way into
first team plans. Following a few substitute appearances in every one of
Albion’s Premier League games this season, Berahino got his chance when brought
on for the injured Scott Sinclair- ten minutes into the Baggies remarkable Old
Trafford win, and the rest as they say is history.
Burundi to Birmingham, from Phoenix United to England under-21s and from nowhere
to scoring the winner at Old Trafford. Berahino’s spectacular winner in many
ways represents somewhat of a symbolic pinnacle - but those around the club and
who know him well know that he is capable of so much more. West Bromwich Albion
legend (and ironically scorer in
West Brom’s last win at Old Trafford) Cyrille Regis spoke to the
Express and Star on
Albion’s new gem…
“I know him well, I like him. He knows where the goal is and
he’s got talent.
We all love young players coming through the ranks and making
their way. He’s been out on loan, he’s been learning and improving and now he’s
getting into the team and making an impact. Yes, he’s got genuine talent and
we’re beginning to see the fruits of that talent and ability.
Now he’s still got some way to go. Let’s remember that and
for Saido himself there is the big next question - can he go up another level?
Can he deal with the expectation that will come now? Can he get a run in the
side, a starting position, and hold his place? This the next challenge for him.
That’s the next level.
It’s tough because Albion have now got quite a group of
strikers - Anelka, Long, Vydra, Rosenberg, Sessegnon, Anichebe and he’s the
young lad coming through. Its great credit to him that he’s actually got on to
the pitch with that sort of competition around him.”
It seems the sky could be the limit for this young man, whose
footballing journey has taken him from
Burundi to Birmingham. As a West
Bromwich Albion supporter, I can only hope that he continues his remarkable
development - because we have quite a talent on our hands. Rumours have it that
Everton and notorious youth snatchers Arsenal are in for the young man from
One thing that is for sure however is that Berahino has the
ability to continue his meteoric rise to the top, and cement his place there for