Can these five keep the Baggies alive?

Sam Allardyce spent much of the transfer window bemoaning the difficulty of signing players but Allardyce, Dowling et al produced three new faces in the final few days to add to the two signed earlier in the window. That gave Baggies fans some renewed hope on Monday, although many will have returned to despair after defeat at Bramall Lane.

Nevertheless, we’ve not yet seen the two signed on Monday and, if they can have the desired impact, it may not yet be too late to save Albion’s season.

First through the door was experienced midfielder Robert Snodgrass who made the move from West Ham United for an undisclosed fee. The former Scottish international impressed in his debut against Wolves and is widely reported as being a “good character in the dressing room” and the hope that his nous and experience will help the squad as a whole.

Veteran goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan, signed a short term contract as a replacement for third choice ‘keeper, Jonathan Bond, who made the move to LA Galaxy without having made a league appearance for the club. Lonergan is unlikely to play, but it is good to have an experienced stopper as a back up.

Things got interesting when the loan signing of Senegal international, Mbaye Diagne, was announced on 27th January. The 6’4″ target man has an excellent goalscoring record with a record of better than 1 in 2 although he hasn’t played that many games given the length of his career. He has been a real star in Turkey and if he can carry that form into the Premier League, he could be a massive signing for the Baggies.

On deadline day, Albion confirmed another two signings, the first of which was Turkish international defensive midfielder, Okay Yokuşlu, on loan from Celta de Vigo. Allardyce feels that he could have the same impact at the Hawthorns that Luka Milivojević did when Big Sam was at Crystal Palace – high praise indeed and we can only hope that he is right. Defensive midfield has been a big problem area for the Baggies this season and if Yokuşlu can be the solution there, it can only be a positive.

The final signing of the window was undoubtedly a coup for the Baggies. It was a surprise to learn that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was available for a loan in the first place given that he had been involved with the Arsenal first team this season, and then when Leicester City and Southampton declared an interest, it was expected that Albion would lose out. However, with Arsenal unwilling to allow him to go to the King Power Stadium as they are a top six rival, the player himself opted to come to the Hawthorns with the feeling that he would get more regular football. The key question is whether Allardyce sees him as a midfielder or a full back – personally, I can see him coming into the side for on the right side of the defence, but we will have to see.

On the outgoing side, Albion were just as busy. As well as Bond’s move across the pond, Charlie Austin and Sam Field both moved to QPR on loan, but both with a view to a permanent move, while Cedric Kipré has gone on loan to Charleroi in search of first team football. Filip Krovinović had his loan deal cancelled and officially returned to Benfica before going back out on loan to Nottingham Forest, while Rekeem Harper has gone on loan to Birmingham City.

Below is a summary of the careers of our five new signings.

Robert Snodgrass

Photo by Carl Recine – Pool/Getty Images

Born: 7th September 1987 (age 33), Rutherglen, Scotland
Signed: 8th January 2021, undisclosed fee
From: West Ham United

Robert Snodgrass grew up in the Gallowgate area of Glasgow and his first professional club was Livingston, joining at the age of 13 at the same time as former Baggie, Graham Dorrans.  He made his professional debut against Kilmarnock in September 2004 and there were rumours of interest from Barcelona in 2005, although Snodgrass has since claimed he was unaware of any approach.

Rather than Catalonia, he moved to Leeds United in 2008 when the club was still in League One.  He hit the ground running as a first team regular in his first season scoring eleven goals as Leeds lost out in the play-offs.  They were promoted to the Championship the following season and Snodgrass was a first team regular until he made the step up to the Premier League moving to Norwich City in the summer of 2012.

He was immediately a first team regular for Chris Hughton’s side as they enjoyed a decent season finishing comfortably in mid-table.  Snodgrass found goals harder to come by in the top flight has he managed only seven in each of his two seasons at Carrow Road.  The second of those seasons resulted in the first relegation of his career, but he managed to stay in the Premier League as he moved to Hull City, only to be relegated again the following season.  However, Snodgrass only made one Premier League appearance that season in which he picked up a knee injury that kept him out for the remainder of the campaign.

He returned to action in the Championship in December 2015 and soon established himself in Steve Bruce’s side. He played a key role in the second half of the campaign as they were promoted back to the top flight via the play-offs.

The following season, Snodgrass produced his best top flight goalscoring figures as he notched seven goals under Tigers’ boss, Mike Phelan, including one in a 3-1 defeat at the Hawthorns in January 2017.  That proved to be his last for Hull, and the last game for Phelan as Macro Silva replaced him.  West Ham United then tabled a £10 million bid for Snodgrass and he completed the move to east London at the end of the month.

Despite making 15 appearances under Slaven Bilić before the end of season, Snodgrass was deemed surplus to requirements that summer and was sent on loan to Aston Villa in the Championship for most of the 2017/18 season.  He was a success at Villa Park scoring seven goals and recording 13 assists as they ultimately lost out to Fulham in the play-off final.  Back at West Ham, Bilić had been replaced initially by David Moyes and then Manuel Pellegrini for the start of the following season and Snodgrass was back in favour scoring his first goals for the Hammers in an 8-0 win over Macclesfield Town in the EFL Cup in September 2018.

He became a regular for the under Pellegrini that season, but had more limited opportunities the following season, and only made six league starts after Moyes returned to the club in January last year, and just three substitute appearances in the Premier League this season.

Snodgrass played at several youth levels for Scotland and made his full debut in February 2011 in a Nations Cup game against Northern Ireland.  He scored his first goal against Denmark in the August of that year and went on to win 28 caps scoring 7 goals before announcing his retirement from international football in October 2019.

  From To Apps Goals Assists
Livingston 1-Jul-2004 25-Jul-2008 92 17
Stirling Albion (loan) 31-Jan-2007 31-May-2007 15 7
Leeds United 25-Jul-2008 26-Jul-2012 165+26 41 40
Norwich City 26-Jul-2012 1-Jul-2014 71+3 14 14
Hull City 1-Jul-2014 27-Jan-2017 46+10 14 10
West Ham United 27-Jan-2017 8-Jan-2021 63+27 11 17
Aston Villa (loan) 25-Aug-2017 31-May-2018 41+2 7 13
Total 493+68 111 94

Andy Lonergan

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Born: 19th October 1983 (age 37), Preston
Signed: 9th January 2021, free transfer
From: Stoke City

Andy Lonergan was born in Preston and spent the first eleven years of his football career with his home town club other than four short loan spells with lower league clubs and made his league debut for North End in a 3-0 victory over Albion in February 2004.  Later that year, Lonergan scored the only goal of his career when a clearance kick deceived Leicester City goalkeeper, Kevin Pressman at the Walkers Stadium – the game finished 1-1.

He had a number of challenges to his first team place at Deepdale with Carlo Nash and Iain Turner both having spells as the regular number one, and it was ultimately Turner that replaced him when he left for Leeds United in 2011.  Preston manager at the time, Phil Brown, revealed that it was finances that had forced the sale and Lonergan departed after making more than 200 appearances for the Lilywhites.

Since then, he has failed to find a new home and has rarely spent longer than a season at any club. At Leeds, he was the number one initially as the replacement for Kasper Schmeichel and was even named club captain in January 2012.  However, when Neil Warnock took over at Elland Road the following month, Robert Snodgrass was named captain and Warnock signed Paddy Kenny in the summer as his new number one.

He signed for Bolton Wanderers and spent three seasons there, his longest spell at any club other than Preston.  His time with the Trotters was hampered by injury and a battle for the number one spot with Ádám Bogdán and, in his final season, Ben Amos.

When his contract with Bolton expired, Lonergan moved again, this time to Fulham, also in the Championship.  He had a spell as the number one at the Cottage while first choice, Marcus Bettinelli, was injured.  His role as a back up goalkeeper at Fulham was a sign of things to come for Lonergan, and that has been his role ever since.  He has made just 35 appearances in the four and a half years since he left west London, a third of those at Wolves.

He has never made a Premier League appearance but was on the bench twice in Liverpool’s title winning campaign last season along with their UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup matches and two cup fixtures.

Lonergan is eligible for both the Republic of Ireland and England and played once for the Irish U16s before playing for England in the U20 World Cup in 2003.

  From To Apps Goals Assists
Preston North End 1-Jul-2000 25-Jul-2011 231 1 0
Darlington (loan) 20-Dec-2002 27-Dec-2002 2 0 0
Blackpool (loan) 7-Feb-2003 17-Mar-2003 0 0 0
Wycombe Wanderers (loan) 6-Oct-2005 6-Nov-2005 2 0 0
Swindon Town (loan) 3-Nov-2006 30-Nov-2006 1 0 0
Leeds United 25-Jul-2011 17-Jul-2012 38 0 0
Bolton Wanderers 17-Jul-2012 1-Jul-2015 61+1 0 0
Fulham 1-Jul-2015 1-Jul-2016 30+1 0 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-Jul-2016 27-Aug-2017 12+2 0 0
Leeds United 27-Aug-2017 2-Aug-2018 9 0 0
Middlesbrough 2-Aug-2018 12-Aug-2019 2 0 0
Rochdale (loan) 7-Feb-2019 29-Mar-2019 7 0 0
Liverpool 12-Aug-2019 1-Aug-2020 0 0 0
Stoke City 2-Dec-2020 9-Jan-2020 1 0 0
Total 398+4 1 0

Mbaye Diagne

Photo by Jason Cairnduff via Getty Images

Born: 28th October 1991 (age 29), Dakar, Senegal
Signed: 29th January 2021, loan
Parent Club: Galatasaray

Mbaye Diagne’s early football career was spent in Italy, and his first professional club was Serie D side, AC Bra, in the Piedmont region near Turin. He was signed for Juventus by Antonio Conte in July 2013 but almost immediately sent out on loan to French club, Ajaccio, who were then managed by Conte’s former teammate, Fabrizio Ravanelli.

He never made a senior appearance for the Turin giants spending most of his time out on loan including spells in Belgium and Saudi Arabia before moving to Újpest in Hungary. After a short and impressive spell in Budapest, he moved to Chinese Super League side, Tianjin TEDA.

He spent two years in China scoring at a rate of better than one goal in three games, before he came back to Europe to sign for Istanbul side, Kasımpaşa.

Diagne had scored goals regularly pretty much everywhere he went having scored 59 goals in 115 appearances before his move to Turkey, but it was in the Super Lig he really came to prominence. He scored the winner from the bench on his debut against Gençlerbirliği and ended up with 12 goals in 17 games in his first season. In the 2018/19 season he did even better averaging better than a goal a game including doubles against both Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. Those performances attracted the interest of the other Turkish giants, Galatasaray, and they signed him for a fee of €10 million.

He once again scored on his debut, a penalty against Trabzonspor, and scored 10 goals in 12 games in his first season. He spent much of the 2019-20 season on loan at Belgian champions, Club Brugge, but only made a handful of appearances before the season was cancelled due to COVID. Back at Galatasaray this season, he had scored 11 goals in 19 games before joining the Baggies.

Diagne made his international debut for Senegal in September 2018 as a substitute in a 2-2 draw against Madagascar and was in the squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and came off the bench in the final when Senegal were beaten by Algeria. He currently has 10 caps, mostly as a substitute, and is yet to score for his country.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
AC Bra 1-Jul-2012 30-Aug-2013 29 23
Juventus 30-Aug-2013 15-Aug-2015 0 0
AC Ajaccio (loan) 31-Aug-2013 31-Dec-2013 0 0
Lierse SK (loan) 6-Jan-2014 30-Jun-2014 11 7 1
Al-Shahab (loan) 27-Jul-2014 31-Dec-2014 1+2 0 1
KVC Westerlo (loan) 5-Jan-2015 30-Jun-2015 7+4 3 0
Újpest 15-Aug-2015 5-Feb-2016 13+3 11 2
Tianjin TEDA 5-Feb-2016 16-Jan-2018 37+8 15 6
Kasımpaşa 16-Jan-2018 31-Jan-2019 33+3 32 4
Galatasaray 31-Jan-2019 Present 32+7 22 2
Club Brugge (loan) 2-Sep-2019 30-Jun-2020 2+7 4 0
Total 165+34 117 16

Okay Yokuşlu

Photo by Perre-Philippe Marcou via Getty Images

Born: 9th March 1994 (age 26), Konak, Turkey
Signed: 1st February 2021, loan
Parent Club: Celta de Vigo

Okay Yokuşlu was born in Konak in İzmir on the coast of the Aegean Sea and started his professional football career with local club Altay who play in the second tier of Turkish football. Altay received a club record €1 million when he moved to Super Lig side Kayserispor in the summer of 2011.

Kayseri is a far cry from İzmir in central Turkey, but Yokuşlu gradually began to establish himself as a first team regular. It wasn’t until the second half of the 2014/15 season, after Kayserispor had been relegated, that he became a regular starter and a key member of the team as they won the second tier title to regain their spot in the Super Lig.

Yokuşlu’s impressive performances earned him a transfer to another Super Lig side, Trabzonspor. Back on the coast, but this time on the Black Sea in northern Turkey, he was immediately a regular starter missing only a handful of games, mainly through suspension or injury, in his three years in Trabzon.

In the summer of 2018, he made the move to Spain to another coastal town, Vigo on the Atlantic coast near the Portuguese border. At Celta, once again he has rarely been out of the side with suspension a frequent reason as he regularly picks up yellow cards. He has collected 72 in his career so far, plus five red cards, so it will be interesting how he gets on with Premier League referees!

Yokuşlu made his international debut for Turkey as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Greece in November 2015 and scored his only international goal so far in Montenegro in March 2018. He has 29 caps to date.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Altay  14-Jan-2010 1-Jul-2011 19+16 4 0
Kayserispor 1-Jul-2011 5-Jul-2015 51+60 8 5
Trabzonspor 5-Jul-2015 1-Jul-2018 97+9 10 7
Celta de Vigo 1-Jul-2018 Present 57+15 2 2
Total 224+100 24 14

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Photo by Peter Cziborra via Getty Images

Born: 29th August 1997 (age 23), Goodmayes, London
Signed: 1st February 2021, loan
Parent Club: Arsenal

AMN was born in Goodmayes in east London and has been with Arsenal since the age of six. He signed his first professional contract at the age of 17 in October 2014 and made his debut for the Gunners in a Champions League fixture against Galatasaray in the December of that year becoming the second youngest player to play for Arsenal in the Champions League behind Jack Wilshere.

He made one brief substitute appearance in the Premier League that season but went out on loan to Ipswich Town the following summer. His performances in Suffolk earned him praise from Tractor Boys’ boss, Mick McCarthy, and he played him mostly on the right of midfield. He scored his first senior goal in a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers in November 2015. He fell out of favour in the second half of the season making just seven appearances after the turn of the year before returning to Arsenal at the end of the season.

It wasn’t until another season had passed before he got regular first team football again. He played in cup fixtures in the 2016-17 season but his first run of Premier League football started in December 2017 when he started as a left back against West Ham United. In all he made 15 Premier League appearances that season, 28 in all competitions, either as a full back or anywhere across the midfield.

Maitland-Niles was injured in the opening match of the following season under new manager, Unai Emery, and he didn’t get back into the side until December. He scored his first Arsenal goal in a 5-1 defeat at Anfield that month.

Since then he has been in and out of the side, rarely getting a run of more than a few games, and Arteta as played him at right-back most often, although there are suggestions that the player himself prefers a midfield spot.

In the current campaign, he has made 21 appearances, 11 of which have been in the league although he has only started 5 Premier League games, most recently in the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on 14th January.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Arsenal 24-Oct-2014 Present 74+37 3 7
Ipswich Town (loan) 2-Jul-2015 31-May-2016 23+9 2 3
Total 97+46 5 10

If you cannot see the tables, click here.

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