West Brom boss Tony Pulis has urged Saido Berahino to return to form for the rest of the season – not just as an early Christmas present.
The striker played and scored in the under-21s’ 2-1 defeat at West Ham on Monday, having requested to feature to boost his fitness.
He has been benched for the last four games, with Pulis claiming Berahino’s form has dipped this season, after the Baggies rejected two deadline-day bids from Tottenham in the summer.
Three-goal Berahino, who netted 20 times last term, could again be among the substitutes for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Liverpool, but the manager is eager to see the 22-year-old return to his best.
“We don’t want it (his form) just for Christmas – we want him back in the fold and as good as he was last year,” Pulis said. “He was a top player for us last year.
“Saido asked to play (in the under-21s). He wanted to have a game. His attitude was first class and he scored a good goal.
“He needed a game to get closer to match fitness and, over the Christmas period, with the amount of games, it’s good he has got game time.”
Berahino has been linked with a move away in the transfer window next month but Pulis insisted the Baggies have not outlined their January plans yet.
He said: “It must be transfer window time. I haven’t got a clue. I haven’t spoken to Jeremy (Peace, chairman) about the window yet and about what we want to do and don’t want to do. We’re more concerned about the games leading up to January 1.
“You can’t do anything at the moment. My mind is totally and utterly focused on what we’ve got. They are tough games. We need to go to Anfield and put a good performance in.”
Pulis is without Stephane Sessegnon after he came off in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Tottenham with a hamstring injury, but Claudio Yacob is back from suspension.