A window of opportunity – a look at Albion’s new signings

As usual, the transfer window was full of speculation, much of it without substance, and Luke Dowling, Slaven Bilić and team made three useful additions to the squad. While none of them could be classed as “exciting”, all three are sensible, astute and give Albion a better chance of achieving their goal this season.

Many fans were calling for the club to sign the rumoured target, Mislav Oršić, from Dinamo Zagreb, and there is no doubt that he would have been more exciting, but it would also have represented a risk. Bringing players in from abroad is always a risk as you cannot be sure how a player will settle in a new country. Doing it in January is even more difficult as even those that do settle well can take several weeks to do so, by which time the season could almost be over. Financially, it would also have been a risk given there is no guarantee of promotion. If Bilić wants him in the summer, he may well go back for him, but I can fully understand why the club would not go for him in January.

Onto the players that have been signed – all three have plenty of Championship experience and proven ability at this level. It was very much a window to do what could be done to make promotion more likely, rather than looking to build for next season. That, in my opinion, is eminently sensible given that the club’s financial situation will be poles apart in the summer depending on whether the club is preparing to play in the Premier League or the Championship.

Unlike the loan additions that were made last January, all this window’s signings have been playing regular football this season and should be able to hit the ground running. Many, myself included, thought last January was a good window at the time, but getting players who weren’t match fit to make immediate impacts proved to be difficult, and only Mason Holgate could be described as a success.

On the outgoings, it was the deals that didn’t get done that made the news. I’m sure the vast majority of Albion fans were happy that Chris Brunt didn’t leave the club. Brunty may be nearing the end of his time at the Hawthorns, but he deserves to get a proper chance to say goodbye, and I still feel he will have a part to play this season.

The Nathan Ferguson situation is a tricky one. The deal could have happened in spite of the medical issue, but the clubs couldn’t agree the terms given the results of the scan. Albion have taken a punt that Ferguson can get fit and that, either he can be persuaded to stay, or he will move to another club in England and therefore earn a decent tribunal fee. There is the chance, of course, that he could go abroad for a much lower fee like Louie Barry, but that is evidently a risk that Dowling et al were prepared to take. It is a situation that we will watch with interest.

One outgoing that did happen, a little under the radar, is Chris Willock. Benfica opted to recall him from his loan spell and sent him on loan to Huddersfield Town. Bilić obviously didn’t feel he was ready for the first team – it will be interesting to see how he does in West Yorkshire.

Below is a summary of the careers of our new boys.

Callum Robinson

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Born: 2nd February 1995 (age 25), Northampton
Signed: 29th January – Loan
Parent club: Sheffield United

It took a few weeks for Albion to make their first signing of the transfer window, but it finally happened on Wednesday when the loan signing of Callum Robinson from Sheffield United was announced.

The Northampton-born forward is a product of the Aston Villa academy but it was at Preston North End that he blossomed, initially in three separate loan spells before making the switch to Deepdale permanent in the summer of 2016.

The 2016/17 season was a real breakthrough for Robinson as he became a regular fixture in the Lilywhite’s front line, most often as a centre forward but also able to operate on either flank, scoring eleven goals that season with six assists. With Simon Grayson being replaced by Alex Neil in the summer of 2017, Robinson was switched to play mostly as a left-sided midfielder but he still managed a respectable eight goals and seven assists.

It was last season when he really came to the notice of Premier League scouts. Despite spending almost half of the season sidelined through injury, he scored 13 goals in just 28 appearances making him the club’s top scorer.

Chris Wilder made an early move in the summer to take him to Bramall Lane for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £7m. He started the season as the Blades’ first choice striker starting seven of their opening eight Premier League games and scoring his first goal for the club in the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in September.

Although his appearances have been limited in recent weeks, he has been in the squad for all but one of United’s Premier League fixtures this season and scored his second goal for the club in their 2-1 victory over AFC Fylde in the FA Cup third round.

I think he is an excellent addition to Albion’s attacking ranks as he showed in an impressive debut against Luton Town on Saturday. He can play anywhere in the front four positions and has pace to burn.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Aston Villa 1-Jul-2014 4-Jul-2016 0+5 0 0
Preston North End (loan) 16-Sep-2014 25-Nov-2014 7+4 2 1
Preston North End (loan) 2-Feb-2015 11-May-2015 12+5 2 3
Bristol City (loan) 7-Aug-2015 3-Jan-2016 2+5 1 0
Preston North End (loan) 5-Jan-2016 30-Jun-2016 4+11 2 3
Preston North End 4-Jul-2016 12-Jul-2019 92+25 32 17
Sheffield United 12-Jul-2019 Present 12+7 2 2
Total 129+62 41 26

Kamil Grosicki

Born: 8th June 1988 (age 31), Szczecin, Poland
Signed: 31st January – Undisclosed fee (believed in the region of £900k
From: Hull City

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With all the attention on who would sign Hull City’s star player, Jarod Bowen, Albion nipped under the radar to snap up their other key creative influence, Polish winger Kamil Grosicki.

At 31, Grosicki may not be one for the future, but he represents good business for a fee thought to be in the region of £900k. He is still superbly fit, having started all but one of the Tigers’ Championship games this season contributing six goals and four assists.

The Pole is vastly experienced with a career that spans five countries over 14 years. He has also played 73 times for Poland scoring 13 goals, and captained his national side for the Nations League match against Portugal in November 2018.

Having started his football career with his hometown club, Pogon Szczecin, Grosicki was snapped up by Polish giants, Legia Warsawa at the age of 19. After a brief loan spell with Swiss club, FC Sion, he moved to another Polish top flight club, Jagiellonia Białystok, initially on loan. Although he earned his first Polish cap whilst at Legia, it was towards the end of his time at Białystok that he started to get regular involvement with the national side.

In January 2011, he was transferred to Turkish Süper Lig side, Sivasspor, and his good form earned him a place in Poland’s Euro 2012 squad although he only made one appearance, in the 1-0 defeat to the Czech Republic.

After three years in Turkey, he made the switch to Stade Rennais in France scoring his first goal for them in a French Cup quarter-final win over Lille, and another in the semi-final win over Angers. He scored 15 goals for the French club in 48 starts, although he made almost as many appearances from the bench.

He started every game for Poland in the Euro 2016 tournament as the Eagles went all the way to the quarter finals, losing on penalties to Portugal.

After three years in Rennes, Grosicki moved to Hull City for a fee of around £8m in January 2017. He went straight into the starting line up for the Tigers’ battle against relegation from the Premier League but, although he contributed five assists, and was named the PFA Fans’ Premier League Player of the Month for April, City dropped into the Championship.

He has been a regular in the Tigers’ first team ever since and has contributed considerably with 25 goals and 22 assists in his 104 Championship appearances.

Like Robinson, I believe he represents another fantastic attacking option that could prove crucial in the promotion run-in.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Pogon Szczecin 1-Jul-2006 1-Jul-2007 8+15 2 4
Legia Warsawa 1-Jul-2007 1-Jul-2009 6+6 1 0
FC Sion (loan) 14-Feb-2008 3-Sep-2008 4+4 2 2
Jagiellonia Białystok (loan) 1-Jan-2009 30-Jun-2009 13 4 4
Jagiellonia Białystok 1-Jul-2009 10-Jan-2011 38+16 11 17
Sivasspor 10-Jan-2011 29-Jan-2014 90+14 16 26
Stade Rennais 29-Jan-2014 31-Jan-2017 48+44 15 13
Hull City 31-Jan-2017 31-Jan-2020 97+26 26 27
Total 304+125 77 111

Lee Peltier

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Born: 11th December 1986 (age 33), Liverpool
Signed: 31st January – Free transfer
From: Cardiff City

Although there was plenty of talk about Nathan Ferguson leaving the club, it was very late when news emerged that Albion were looking to strengthen at full back. In Lee Peltier, they have signed a vastly experienced full back with almost 500 appearances, more than half of which have been in the Championship.

Born in Toxteth, Peltier started his career in the Liverpool academy and made his senior debut for the Reds in a League Cup tie against Reading in October 2006. He played in the Champions League away to Galatasary in the December of that year and his final appearance for Liverpool was in that remarkable 6-3 defeat to Arsenal in the quarter final of the League Cup in January 2007.

After a loan spell with Championship side, Hull City, that season, Liverpool boss, Rafael Benítez loaned Peltier to League One Yeovil Town. He did well at Huish Park and, although he had a trial with Norwich City in January 2008, he agreed to join the Glovers permanently at the end of that month.

He spent another season and a half in Gloucestershire before making the switch to another League One club, Huddersfield Town. He became a regular in the Town back line, initially at right back but switching to the left following an injury to Dean Heffernan. In his second season at the Kirklees Stadium, the Terriers reached the League One Play-Off Final but, after a 3-0 defeat to Peterborough United, the club received several enquiries about the availability of Peltier.

It was Championship, Leicester City, who signed Peltier as he became Sven-Göran Eriksson’s first signing of the summer in July 2011. Despite making 40 appearances for the Foxes, the Swede’s replacement, Nigel Pearson, decided that Peltier was surplus to requirements and he was sold to Leeds United in August 2012 linking up with Neil Warnock for the first time.

Those were turbulent days at Elland Road, and Warnock was the first of three managers that Peltier played under that season. He was made captain by Warnock, playing in all positions across the back line, and kept the armband until August 2013 when the then manager, Brian McDermott, opted for Rodolph Austin instead.

Peltier gradually fell out of favour at Leeds and a loan deal to Nottingham Forest was agreed with Neil Warnock poised to take over as their new manager. Warnock couldn’t agree terms but the loan deal had already been processed and Peltier moved to the City Ground making seven appearances.

With Elland Road in turmoil in the summer of 2014 following the takeover by Massimo Cellino, Peltier agreed to cancel his contract and returned to Huddersfield Town. Terriers’ boss, Mark Robins, made Peltier club captain but, when Robins was replaced by Chris Powell, Peltier found himself out of favour once again.

In the summer of 2015, he moved to Cardiff City to link up with Russell Slade who had been his manager at Yeovil Town. He became the Bluebirds regular right back and, while his involvement was threatened when Paul Trollope took over from Slade in the summer of 2016, the new man lasted only three months. Peltier’s place in the side was assured when his former boss, Neil Warnock, was appointed and he became a key part of his side as he guided Cardiff to the Premier League.

Peltier made 20 appearances for Cardiff in the Premier League and initially kept his place in the side under Neil Harris before Jazz Richards emerged as the new boss’s preferred right back in the last few weeks.

Peltier may not be an exciting signing, but he is very experienced and offers versatility to play as either full back, or at centre back. He has also played in central midfield on occasion. Given the Ferguson situation, and the injury record of Kieran Gibbs, he is an astute low-risk signing.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Liverpool 1-Jul-2004 29-Jul-2007 4 0 0
Hull City (loan) 16-Mar-2007 7-May-2007 5+2 0 1
Yeovil Town (loan) 29-Jul-2007 31-Dec-2007 20 0 0
Yeovil Town 31-Jan-2008 1-Jul-2009 53+1 1 0
Huddersfield Town 1-Jul-2009 1-Jul-2011 103 3 4
Leicester City 1-Jul-2011 4-Aug-2012 44+3 2 2
Leeds United 4-Aug-2012 1-Jul-2014 71+4 1 2
Nottingham Forest (loan) 27-Mar-2014 31-May-2014 7 0 0
Huddersfield Town 1-Jul-2014 24-Jan-2015 8+3 0 1
Cardiff City 24-Jan-2015 31-Jan-2020 152+11 0 3
Total 467+24 7 12

Lead photos:
Robinson: Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Grosicki: Jure Makovec/AFP via Getty Images
Peltier: Pete Norton/Getty Images

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