The class of ’19 grows – the Deadline Day Quartet

With five signings made ahead of the opening day of the season, it had been a frustrating week for Baggies fans as no new faces joined Slaven Bilić’s squad as Deadline Day dawned.

With rumours that a deal for last season’s goalscoring hero, Dwight Gayle, could move back to the Hawthorns, hopes were high.  While that deal could not be done, four signings were made with the final two announced very close to, or even just after, the 5pm deadline.

Three of those signings are on loan, which mirrors the final day of the January transfer window.  Unfortunately, none of Jacob Murphy, Stefan Johanssen or Jefferson Montero had the impact that Baggies fans were hoping for in the second half of last season; let’s just hope that this month’s trio of loan players are more like Harvey Barnes!

The one permanent signing is an experienced proven goalscorer in Charlie Austin, by far the oldest of this summer’s signings at 30 but, if he can stay relatively injury-free, he should hopefully go some way to making up for the goals the squad has lost since last season.

We also lost a couple of players on Thursday, albeit temporarily, with Sam Field and Jon Leko going on loan to Charlton Athletic.  Both are players that have been on the verge of the first team for a couple of years but have found it difficult to break into the starting line up on a regular basis. Being 21 and 20 respectively, they do need regular football and, it seems, if Slav doesn’t see them in his immediate plans, a loan move is perhaps the best choice.

Below, I look at the history of the four signings in the order in which they were announced, starting with “Diang”.

Grady Diangana

Born: 19th April 1998 (age 21), Democratic Republic of Congo
Signed: 8th August – Season long loan
Parent club: West Ham United

First through the door on Thursday was West Ham United’s 21-year-old winger, Grady Diangana.  Although born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Diang” grew up in Woolwich in south east London and has earned two caps for the England U20s.

He joined West Ham at the age of 12, initially playing as a striker, and switched to attacking midfield when playing for the U15s.  He signed his first professional contract in 2016 and made his first team debut in an EFL Cup tie against Macclesfield Town in September 2018 scoring twice in an 8-0 win.

He made his Premier League debut later that month as a last minute substitute in the match at home to Manchester United, starting his first game away to Leicester City in October.  He ended up making 17 Premier League appearances for the Hammers last season claiming an assist in the 4-2 win over Burnley at the London Stadium in November.

Reports from Hammers fans suggest that Diang is a great signing for Albion and Pellegrini only let him go out on loan having signed two strikers (including Baggies target, Albian Ajeti – surely he was destined for the Hawthorns with that first name?) and an attacking midfielder to bolster the squad.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
West Ham United 1-Jul-2016 Present 10+11 2 1
Total 10+11 2 1

Charlie Austin

Born: 5th July 1989 (age 30), Hungerford
Signed: 8th August – Undisclosed fee believed to be around £4m
Previous club: Southampton

Charlie Austin probably made more headlines in the past year for his “It’s a joke” interview following Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Watford last November than for his goalscoring, but there is no doubt that he knows where the net is.

He may not be the pacy young striker that many Albion fans craved, but his goalscoring record, at Championship level in particular, is impressive.  While he hasn’t been prolific in the past couple of seasons, I’d challenge all but the very best strikers to have scored freely in the Saints sides managed by Claude Puel, Mauricio Pellegrino and Mark Hughes, and Austin was, in fact, their joint top scorer in 2017/18 albeit with only seven goals.

In the second tier, he averages a goal every 146 minutes scoring 66 goals over five seasons with Burnley and QPR.  In 2012/13, he scored 24 goals in 37 games for the Clarets and followed that up with 17 in 31 games for Rangers in their 2013/14 promotion season.

Austin started out in senior football with his hometown club, Hungerford, before switching to Poole Town.  He spent pre-season in summer 2009 on trial at Bournemouth but Eddie Howe was unable to offer him a contract due to a transfer embargo and he ultimately earned his first full time contract, he moved into the Football League in October 2009 when he signed for Swindon Town after a successful trial period.

After helping the Robins to the League One play-off final in 2010, Austin had another successful season at the County Ground and was signed by Eddie Howe for Burnley in January 2011 after handing in a transfer request.  Howe may not have been a success at Turf Moor, but Austin certainly was although he would have to wait until the following season to impress as he only made four appearances for his new club before a hamstring injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

In his first full season in Lancashire, Austin scored 17 goals under Eddie Howe but started the 2012/13 season like a train scoring in eight successive appearances.  He reached 20 goals in just 17 games, a club record, but his rate of scoring dropped after Howe left to return to Bournemouth and he ended up the season with 27 goals in all competitions.

He moved to QPR the following summer and scored 20 goals in all competitions in his first season at Loftus Road as the R’s were promoted via the play-offs with Austin scoring both goals in the second leg semi-final win over Wigan Athletic.  Austin’s first season in the Premier League was a success, although QPR were ultimately relegated – he scored 18 goals in 35 games which is a remarkable feat in a struggling side that earned him a call up to the England squad, although he didn’t make any international appearances.

After spending the first half of the 2015/16 season in the Championship with QPR, he moved to Southampton in January for a fee of around £4m.  Austin scored on his debut for the Saints, but much of his time at St Mary’s was blighted by injury.  Hamstring and knee injuries kept him out for much of his first half season while a shoulder injury restricted him to 22 appearances in all competitions in 2016/17 although he still managed 9 goals.

He finished as Southampton’s joint top Premier League goalscorer the following season with seven goals despite starting just ten games, but he once again found himself out of favour last season as he started only nine times.

This move represents a great opportunity for Charlie Austin as he seeks to re-ignite a career that stagnated at Southampton.  There is no doubt that he has the chance to become a Baggies favourite if he can do what another ex-Southampton striker, Kevin Phillips, did in his 30s and score the goals to fire Albion back to the Premier League.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Swindon Town 1-Oct-2009 28-Jan-2011 58+5 37 7
Burnley 28-Jan-2011 1-Aug-2013 75+15 44 7
Queen’s Park Rangers 1-Aug-2013 16-Jan-2016 82+7 47 11
Southampton 16-Jan-2016 8-Aug-2019 40+41 20 4
Total 255+68 148 29

Chris Willock

Born: 31st January 1998 (age 21), Waltham Forest
Signed: 8th August – Season long loan
Parent club: Benfica

Chris Willock was born in Waltham Forest in north east London and joined the Arsenal academy at the age of five.  He appeared in a pre-season friendly at the age of 16 and, while he never made a Premier League appearance for the Gunners, he did make two substitute appearances in the EFL Cup in 2015.  He eventually moved to Portuguese champions, Benfica, in June 2017.

To date, he is yet to appear in the first team for the Águias but is a regular in the Benfica B team that plays in the Portuguese second tier and has scored 14 goals in 64 appearances over two seasons, averaging a goal every 260 minutes in the 2018/19 season mostly playing as a left winger.

He has appeared for England at all age groups from U16 to U20 and was named in the Team of the Tournament for the U17 European Championships in 2015.

Joining from Benfica, he joins teammate, Filip Krovinović, who is also on loan from the Portuguese giants – they actually played together for the B side on three occasions last season.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Arsenal 1-Jul-2015 1-Jul-2017 0+2 0 1
Benfica 1-Jul-2017 Present 0 0 0
Total 0+2 0 0

Matheus Pereira

Born: 5 May 1996 (age 23), Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Signed: 8th August – Season long loan
Parent club: Sporting Clube de Portugal

Matheus Pereira was born in Belo Horizonte and, having played in youth teams for local club, Trafaria, he moved into the youth system at Sporting Clube de Portugal at the age of 14.

He made his senior debut for the Leões in a Europa League tie at Beşiktaş in October 2015, and scored his first two goals for Sporting in a Portuguese Cup match away to Vilafranquense later the same month.

He was used sparingly during that and the next season and was sent out on loan to Chaves, then in the Portuguese top flight, for the 2017-18 season.  Playing as a right-winger, he scored 8 times in 30 appearances as Chaves just missed out on European qualification, finishing in 6th place.

The following season, Pereira moved on loan again, this time to German side, Nürnberg, who had just been promoted back to the Bundesliga.  He wasn’t quite as successful in terms of goals, scoring just three in his 21 games, including one against Bayern Munich to earn a draw, but he showed his flexibility in playing on both sides and centrally behind the striker, and it must be remembered that he was playing in a struggling side that were ultimately relegated at the end of the season.

Like all the deadline day signings, he offers another option at the top end of the field and it will be interesting to see how each performs.

Club From To Apps Goals Assists
Sporting CP 1-Oct-2015 Present 14+13 6 4
Chaves (Loan) 26-Jul-2017 30-Jun-2018 26+4 8 5
1. FC Nürnberg (Loan) 31-Aug-2018 30-Jun-2019 18+3 3 2
Total 58+20 17 11

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