A look at the new Baggie Boys

With the January transfer window now closed, we can all now relax and stop speculating about every rumour for a few months at least.  Darren Moore managed to bring in four new faces into the first team squad and in this article, I take a look at their histories and what they could bring to the team.

Mason Holgate

Date of Birth: 22nd October 1996 (22)
Parent Club: Everton
Position: Right back/centre back

Mason Holgate was born in Doncaster in South Yorkshire and started his football career at nearby Barnsley joining them at the age of 9.  He broke into the Tykes’ first team in the 2014/15 season making his debut as the starting left back in the match against his home town club, Doncaster Rovers, in December 2014.  He went on to make 22 appearances for Barnsley that season, most of them at his preferred right back position and scored his only senior goal to date in a 5-0 win over Rochdale on the final day of the season.

His form attracted the scouts at Everton and he made the switch to Goodison Park in August 2015 for a reported fee of £2 million.  In the 2015/16 season, Toffees’ boss Roberto Martínez included him on the bench on just three occasions but he never made a first team appearance, but played 17 times for the U21 side, mostly at centre back, scoring three goals.

In September 2015, he received his first representative honours playing for England U20s against Czech Republic.  To date he has 6 caps for the U20s and 7 for the U21s including being a member of the team that reached the semi-finals of the European U21 Championships in Poland in 2017.

He made his Everton first team debut under new boss, Ronald Koeman, against Spurs on the opening day of the 2016/17 season on the left of a back three at the age of just 19.  He retained his spot for the next game, at the Hawthorns, and assisted Gareth Barry’s winner for Everton!  He lost his place in the side when Seamus Coleman returned to fitness but still got a few games as Koeman switched between a back three and a back four.

He was actually unbeaten in an Everton shirt until the 3-1 defeat in the Merseyside derby in April 2017.  He started that game after Coleman had broken his leg and retained his spot at right back until the end of the season ending up with 28 appearances to his name.

Last season, he made a handful of appearances in the early part of the season, but didn’t get a run in the side until Sam Allardyce took over.  Caretaker boss, David Unsworth, put Holgate in central defence in place of club captain, Phil Jagielka, for the game against West Ham which Big Sam watched from the stands.  Allardyce kept him at centre back for much of the rest of the season but Mason suffered an injury which kept him out for the closing weeks.

Marco Silva started the season with Holgate in central defence but dropped him to the bench after Everton’s first defeat of the season at West Ham and Holgate has not been in Silva’s squad since early October hence he was able to join Albion at the beginning of the month.

Since moving the Hawthorns, Holgate has impressed as an attacking full back and it does seem strange that he has spent most of the past two seasons playing in the centre of defence.  He certainly seems comfortable at full back and with Seamus Coleman now captaining Everton at right back, it seems like a perfect move for Holgate and, should Albion win promotion, he may well be open to a permanent switch.

Jacob Murphy

Date of Birth: 24th February 1995 (23)
Parent Club: Newcastle United
Position: Right winger

Jacob Murphy was born in Wembley and he and his twin brother, Josh, joined Norwich City as 11-year-olds in 2006.  Both were members of the Canaries’ FA Youth Cup winning side of 2013 with Jacob providing the assist for Josh to score City’s third goal in their 3-2 win over Chelsea in the second leg of the final.

Murphy made his professional debut in an FA Cup tie for Norwich against Fulham in January 2014 as a substitute for his brother, and was then loaned to both League One, Swindon Town, and subsequently League Two, Southend United, where he scored his first professional goal in a 3-0 win for the Shrimpers at Rochdale in April 2014.

The following season, Jacob made his first start for the Canaries in the League Cup win over Crawley Town, providing an assist for the first of his brother’s two goals.  He only made one other appearance for his parent club that season, as a substitute in their FA Cup defeat at Preston, but he spent three spells on loan away from Carrow Road.  The first was at Championship Blackpool where he scored twice in his first three games for the Tangerines and he then had a short spell with Scunthorpe United before finishing the season at Colchester United.  He started eleven games for the U’s scoring four goals and providing three assists.

With his parent club back in the Premier League in 2015/16, Murphy was once again loaned out, this time to League One, Coventry City.  This time, however, he stayed for the whole season and notched up 42 appearances for the Sky Blues scoring 10 goals and providing 10 assists.

Back at Carrow Road, the Canaries were once again in the Championship in 2016/17 and it proved to be a break through season for Murphy.  He scored in an opening day win at Blackburn and never looked back finishing up with 40 appearances, 9 goals and 9 assists displaying form that attracted the interest of Newcastle United.

Murphy’s parents had both been born in the north east, and he was happy to sign for the Toon in July 2017 making his debut as a substitute in the defeat at Huddersfield the following month.  He made his first start for Newcastle in the EFL cup defeat to Nottingham Forest a few days later, and made his full Premier League debut against Swansea in September 2017. His only Premier League goal to date came at the Etihad in a 3-1 defeat and he ended last season with 28 appearances for Newcastle.

This season, Murphy has found opportunities to play much harder and has made just three starts in the Premier League, the latest being in the draw at Everton where he provided the assist for Salomón Rondón’s opening goal.  He also provided an assist to Callum Roberts in Newcastle’s 4-2 win over Blackburn in the FA Cup last month; his three appearances in the FA Cup means that he will not be eligible to play for the Baggies in the replay against Brighton on Wednesday.

As you can see from this potted history, Murphy has been no stranger to moving around and has amassed 164 first team appearances already at just 23 years old, scoring 26 goals and providing 28 assists.  Darren Moore has been tracking him for a while, so I’m sure he will be delighted to get him at the Hawthorns.  He should hopefully settle in quickly given his experience with six previous loan spells, and maybe could have an impact similar to Harvey Barnes.

Incidentally, his twin brother Josh made the switch from Norwich to Cardiff City last summer.

Jefferson Montero

Date of Birth: 1st September 1989 (29)
Parent Club: Swansea City
Position: Left winger

Unlike Holgate and Murphy, Jefferson Montero is a very experienced player with 64 full international caps and 10 international goals making him the tenth most capped Ecuadorian footballer of all time.  He was a member of Ecuador’s 2014 World Cup squad and will become the first player from his country to play for the Baggies.

Montero started his career in 2007 at Ecuadorian club, Emelec, near his home town of Babahoyo but moved to Independiente del Valle after one season.  He spent a brief spell on loan at Mexican club, Dorados, in 2008 but he impressed in his time at Independiente in the second tier of Ecuadorian football and was signed by Spanish club, Villarreal in April 2009 as a 20-year-old.

He failed to establish himself in the first team, playing much of his football in the second string side in La Liga 2, and spent time on loan at Levante in 2010/11 before getting a season long loan at Real Betis the following season.

He then moved back over the Atlantic Ocean and signed for Mexican club, Morelia in June 2012 and spent two seasons in Mexico making 67 appearances, scoring 14 goals and providing 12 assists.  That attracted the interest of Swansea City and he moved to south Wales in July 2013 for an undisclosed fee.

He made his debut for the Swans off the bench in their 2-1 win at Old Trafford on the opening day and made his first start in the EFL Cup win over Rotherham United.  His full Premier League debut was at home to Leicester City in October when he provided the assist to Wilfried Bony’s second goal.  He ended up making 34 appearances for Garry Monk’s side scoring one goal in a 2-0 win over Stoke City in May 2015.

At the start of the following season, Montero became a regular in the first team but, when Monk was sacked in January, he found his opportunities more limited under new manager, Francesco Guidolin.  Montero’s 2016/17 season was disrupted by injury and he made just two starts with the first coming under another new manager, Bob Bradley, in a 5-0 defeat at Spurs.

He was loaned out to Getafe at the start of last season, but again found chances to play limited, partially by injury, and eventually took another loan back to his first club, Emelec, in Ecuador.

This season, Montero has made 12 appearances, all as substitute, which means that he has made just seven starts since the start of the 2016/17 season.

This move is a chance for him to get his career back on track but he needs to stay fit.  He’s never been a prolific goalscorer outside South America and his best season in Europe was his first at Swansea when he provided seven assists in his 30 appearances in the Premier League, half of which were off the bench.

There is obviously a talent there and perhaps it is no surprise that Montero’s best season coincided with Swansea’s best Premier League finish.  Maybe a chance with a winning side like Albion are at the moment is exactly what he needs to shine.

Stefan Johansen

Date of Birth: 8th January 1991 (28)
Parent Club: Fulham
Position: Central midfield

Stefan Johansen was born in Vardø in the very north of Norway on the coast near the Finnish border, and joined FK Bodø/Glimt as a 14-year-old.  He made his first team debut at the age of 16, eventually making 30 appearances for the Norwegian top flight club before moving to Strømsgodset IF in January 2011.

He really made his mark in the 2012 season as Strømsgodset IF finished runners up in the Norwegian top division and Johansen scored four goals in 32 games from midfield.  The following season, Strømsgodset went one better and won their first title in 43 years with Johansen scoring another 4 goals and also making his debut for the national team in August 2013.

His form attracted the interest of Scottish giants, Celtic, and he moved to Parkhead in January 2014 for a fee of £2 million.  He made his debut for Neil Lennon’s team as a late substitute against Hibs and started his first game for the Hoops against St Mirren in February.  He scored his first Celtic goal against the same opposition the following month and ended up with 2 goals and 3 assists from 17 appearances in his first half season in the East End of Glasgow.

It cannot have harmed Johansen when his compatriot, Ronny Deila, took charge at Parkhead that summer and, the following season, he was a virtual ever-present in the centre of the Celtic midfield.

He played 56 games in all competitions in 2014/15 scoring 13 goals and providing 10 assists as well as picking up 10 yellow cards.  The following season, Celtic’s failure to qualify for the Champions League group stages, or to progress from their Europa League group meant that there were fewer games, but Johansen still managed 40 games but just 4 goals and 9 assists.  His combative nature was still in evidence however and he managed to up his yellow card count to 15!

Brendan Rodgers took over in May 2016 and Johansen made the switch to Fulham in August making his debut against Birmingham in September.  From mid-October, he became a stalwart of the Fulham midfield scoring 13 goals with 8 assists and 11 yellow cards from 42 appearances for the Cottagers.

He carried on that great form last season as he helped guide Slaviša Jokanović’s side back to the Premier League playing in all but one of Fulham’s league games notching up 8 goals, 9 assists and 12 bookings.

Johansen has made 13 appearances in the first half of this season, although 8 of those have been as a substitute as he became a victim of Fulham’s summer spending spree.  Furthermore, his chances have been even more limited since the arrival of Claudio Ranieri and a move away from the Cottage on loan makes perfect sense.

Johansen is exactly what Albion need in the middle of the park.  Experienced but not too old, with the bite that Livermore provides but also more of a goal threat – he had managed 22 goals for Fulham in the past two and a half seasons.  And despite making double digit yellow cards in every season in the UK, he is yet to be sent off since moving from Norway.

He is also now the captain of his national side having made 46 appearances for Norway scoring five goals including one on his debut against Sweden and a brace in the 2-0 win over Cyprus in September last year.

He will provide another option for Darren Moore in the middle of the park, with a mix of combativeness, energy and potency that is something that no other Baggies midfielder can provide.

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