Before the disaster that was Wednesday night’s defeat to Birmingham, most Albion fans would have been feeling a little better after the news that the club had picked up a couple of decent-looking free agents.
While the signing of any free agent after the closure of the window will come with the question as to why no other club had picked them up, I think the Baggies’ last two additions look pretty useful.
First of all, on Monday, Australian international Tom Rogić agreed to join Albion signing a one-year deal with the club having the option of extending that deal for a further year. The 29-year-old decided to leave Celtic at the end of the last campaign having enjoyed a hugely successful nine-year spell at Parkhead in which he played an active role in winning six Premiership titles and four consecutive domestic trebles.
Having made more than 50 appearances last season, and scored the league’s Goal of the Season against Dundee United, the Scottish giants were keen to keep Rogić, but he decided the time was right for a new challenge and he ultimately decided to move to the Hawthorns.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that Erik Pieters, who had been training with the club for some time, had been offered a 12-month contract with the club. The former Dutch international, who is predominantly a left back but can play anywhere across the back line, has made 225 appearances in the Premier League for Stoke City and Burnley having moved to the Potteries from PSV Eindhoven in 2013. Fans of both clubs were reportedly sorry to see him go and, while he is certainly in the twilight of his career at 34, he certainly feels that he still has plenty to offer. He made his debut off the bench on Wednesday evening and, given the performance of some of his defensive colleagues in that game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Steve Bruce stated on Tuesday that he was no longer scouring the free agent market, and that was business done until January. Whether Wednesday’s abject display will change his mind on that remains to be seen.
Born: 16th December 1992 (age 29), Griffith, Canberra, Australia
Signed: 12th September 2022, free transfer
Previous club: Celtic
Tom Rogić was born in Griffith, a suburb of the Australian capital, Canberra in December 1992. Having played for local junior and amateur clubs, Rogić signed for A-League side, Central Coast Mariners at the age of 19 and made his debut against Adelaide United in January 2012. The following month, he scored his first goal for the club, based in Gosford, New South Wales, and was name the A-League’s young player of the month. He opted to stay with the Mariners for the following season despite interest from other A-League clubs and he continued to impress winning another young player of the month award and being nominated for the young player of the year.
He attracted interest from a number of European clubs including Reading and Fulham, then in the Premier League, but he eventually opted to join Celtic in January 2013. He won the man of the match award on his debut the following month as the Bhoys beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle but he couldn’t establish himself in the first team in that first 12 months and returned to Australia spending the second half of the 2013/14 season on loan at Melbourne Victory.
A serious groin injury saw him miss the 2014 World Cup and the majority of the following season and he didn’t return to the first team until July 2015 when he came off the bench in Celtic’s Champions League qualifier at Stjarnan in Iceland. A goal in his first Premiership game of the season, his first for the club, in a 2-0 win over Partick Thistle seemed to re-ignite his Celtic career and by the end of January he was a regular starter when he scored, but went off injured, during an 8-1 win over Hamilton. It didn’t keep him out for long, however, and he finished the season with ten goals from 39 appearances and a Scottish Premiership winners medal.
Rogić enjoyed his best stats as a Celtic player in the 2016/17 campaign as the Bhoys won the domestic treble as well as qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League. He scored his first European goal in the final qualifying tie against Hapoel Be’er Sheva as well as find the net in both cup finals, including a stoppage time winner in the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen. He finished the season with 12 goals from his 37 appearances.
He started the following campaign well scoring in both legs of Celtic’s first Champions League qualifier against Linfield in July 2017 but a knee injury disrupted the middle part of the season and he only managed a total of 8 goals from 41 appearances although he did appear in both cup finals once again as Celtic secured another domestic treble.
2018/19 was disrupted by another injury but Rogić still managed 35 appearances and five goals and yet another domestic treble but the following season, which started late for the Australian having undergone further surgery on his knee, saw him struggle to regain his starting spot and it wasn’t until just before lockdown that he enjoyed a run of games in the side. Unlike in England, the league campaign did not restart in Scotland and Celtic were awarded the title based on average points, but they completed a fourth treble when the cup competitions were completed in the autumn.
Rogić almost left Celtic in the summer of 2020 but a rumoured move to Qatar failed to materialise and he was in and out of Neil Lennon’s side as they had to play second fiddle to a resurgent Rangers and failed to win any trophies. The appointment of Australian Ange Postecoglou as the new manager at Parkhead in June 2021 proved to be a game changer for Rogić as he was once again one of the first names on the teamsheet and made an incredible 50 appearances in all competitions last season as Celtic regained the league title and the League Cup although he scored only six goals.
He has 53 caps for Australia and has scored nine goals with his most recent appearance coming in the 2-2 draw with Oman in February. However, he was not part of the squad in the summer as the Socceroos secured their place in Qatar and he will be keen to get some regular football with the aim of regaining a place in the squad.
|Central Coast Mariners||2-Jan-2012||21-Jan-2013||25+3||5||3|
|Melbourne Victory (loan)||20-Jan-2014||31-May-2014||9+2||–||1|
Born: 7th August 1988 (age 34), Tiel, Netherlands
Signed: 13th September 2022, free transfer
Previous Club: Burnley
Erik Pieters was born in the Dutch town of Tiel which sits on the River Waal in the central Netherlands and signed his first professional contract at Utrecht, some 50km north, at the age of 17.
After making his debut in the Eredivisie on the opening day of the season, he was in and out of the side until the end of 2006 when he started to establish himself as a starter. Over that season and the next, he made 58 appearances for Utrecht, predominantly in the league, and attracted interest from Dutch giants and reigning champions, PSV Eindhoven, who signed him for a reported fee of €2.5m in July 2008.
He made his debut for PSV in their 5-1 win over his old club, Utrecht, at the end of August and played his first Champions League game against Atlético Madrid the following month. However, he did not properly establish himself as a regular starter until the following campaign and he made more than 40 appearances in each of the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons as PSV came close to regaining the Eredivisie title. He suffered a metatarsal fracture in October 2011 which kept him out for most of the next 14 months returning to action for the match against PEC Zwolle in January 2013. Unfortunately, he was sent off in that game and punched a window in frustration after leaving the field, suffering a severe cut to his arm that ruled him out for a further three months.
That summer, Pieters transferred to England joining Stoke City for a fee of €3.6m making his debut in a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool in August 2013. He barely missed a game for the Potters that season and scored his first goal against Newcastle United when his mishit cross beat Tim Krul. He was almost a permanent fixture at left back at the club making more than 30 Premier League appearances in each of his first five seasons in the Potteries.
Stoke were relegated in 2018 and, in his first Championship season, Pieters started well scoring two goals in his first half a dozen games at that level, including netting the visitors’ goal in their 2-1 defeat at the Hawthorns in September. He fell out of favour in the final days of Gary Rowett’s tenure and, when new manager Nathan Jones was appointed, Pieters was sent out on loan to Amiens in France’s Ligue 1.
He did well at Amiens making 14 starts and assisted in their escape from relegation but, on his return to the midlands, he found himself out of Nathan Jones’ plans and he made the move up the M6 to Burnley for an undisclosed fee.
He was in the side more often than not in his first two seasons at Turf Moor, making 44 Premier League appearances, but he was less well used last season, making just eight starts before an injury brought his season to a premature end at the end of February. With new boss, Vincent Kompany, looking to reduce the average age of the squad, Pieters was released at the end of last season.
Pieters made his debut for the Netherlands in a friendly game with Ukraine in Donetsk in August 2010. He was a regular starter during 2011 until the metatarsal fracture he suffered in October that year saw him miss most of the next year other than 45 minutes in the Netherlands’ 3-2 win at Wembley in February 2012. The injury ruled him out of Euro 2012 and he struggled to get back into the squad and made just three more appearances, his last being in September 2014. He won 18 caps in total.