Saido Berahino admits he was feeling “very lost” at West Brom and has expressed his gratitude to Stoke for helping bring his troubled spell with Albion to an end.
Having been targeted by the Potters for some considerable time, the 23-year-old forward finally completed a move to them last week for a fee of £12million that could rise to £15million.
West Brom academy product Berahino scored 20 goals in 45 appearances for the club in 2014-15, and finished the season as one of the League’s hottest prospects, according to Bet365.
But after several bids – the last reported to be £23million – for him from Tottenham were rejected in the summer of 2015 and he responded by issuing an apparent strike threat on Twitter, he was in and out of the team last season.
And he now arrives at Stoke having not played a first-team game since September, with Baggies boss Tony Pulis repeatedly saying this term he was not fit enough for selection.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Berahino said: “It was very hard. All I’ve ever wanted to do is play football and when that is taken away from you, you are lost. I was very lost.
“I just thank Stoke for having so much faith in me, for coming window after window, wanting to sign me and showing that interest. Finally they’ve done it and I’m here, and I’m so glad.”
In February 2016 Berahino apologised to West Brom fans and the club for his controversial tweet from the previous September, which read: ‘sad how i cant say exactly how the club has treated me but i can officially say i will never play Jeremy Peace (the West Brom chairman at the time)”.
He reiterated that apology on Friday, saying: “Of course I have got some regrets – obviously I could have handled it much better. You live and learn, I guess.
“I take all my actions, all the wrong things that I did, and, as I’ve said before, the West Brom fans deserve an apology from me for the way I’ve gone on.”
Berahino does feel he was at times left in the dark at West Brom about where he stood.
“One thing was the scenarios weren’t explained clearly to me so I was in the background not knowing what was happening with my own career,” he said.
“I don’t know (why he was not sold to Tottenham). No-one gave me an answer. They rejected bids and that was the end of it.
“No-one ever sat me down and told me, ‘the reason we are not selling you is because of X,Y,Z.’ They just left it and I carried on doing what I was doing.”
But he insisted: “I’ve never had a problem with Tony Pulis or the board.”
Berahino also said reports he was punched by team-mate James Morrison in the dressing room after a game in 2013-14 were inaccurate.
“I wasn’t hit at all. Arguments happen all the time in the changing room but nobody ever had a fight,” he said.
“We had an argument because we conceded a goal in the last seconds of the game. But that is the only bust-up I have ever had at the club.”
Berahino added that he had had plenty of support from his West Brom team-mates during his difficulties at the club, and that it was “friendly” when he said goodbye last week.
With regard to what lies ahead, the former England Under-21 international is “raring to go” and says that while he is “lacking a bit of match fitness”, he hopes to make his debut in Stoke’s home Premier League clash with Everton next Wednesday.
Mark Hughes’ side are then at West Brom three days later, and on the prospect of that match, Berahino said: “I have been booed before at that ground while I’m playing for them, so it’s not going to make a difference for me really if I’m booed or not.”