Tony Pulis says Saido Berahino is as important to West Brom as Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane are to Leicester City and Tottenham.
A day after publicly apologising for threatening to go on strike last summer following Albion’s rejection of two bids from Tottenham, Berahino scored his first Premier League goal since October in a 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace.
The 22-year-old’s influence this season has been nothing like it was last term, when he netted 20 goals, but Pulis believes the striker is focused on playing football again.
“He’s back in the team and that’s what Saido was like last year when I came, a talisman that kept us up,” Pulis said.
“You can’t miss half a season in the Premier League and expect to come in and do well. He needed time not just to sharpen himself up but to sharpen his mind back up.
“He’s got his head down and he’ll work hard, and we’ll have that roller-coaster I’m sure again in the summer.
“He’s not a bad person, but he gets affected and he gets driven in directions he shouldn’t even think about going in. You have to accept that and understand, we’re not all the same.
“He’s got wonderful ability and, as I keep saying to him, God’s given him a gift and he should be squeezing the life out of that gift to show everybody how good he is.
“If you take (Jamie) Vardy out of Leicester’s team and you take (Harry) Kane out of Tottenham’s team, then it would be interesting to see how many points they had. Saido is that important to us.”
Berahino’s classy finish to a wonderful team goal in the 31st minute was the icing on the cake of a stunning first half from Albion, who had gone two up through Craig Gardner and Craig Dawson.
But it ended up being a nervy finish after a mistake from Jonas Olsson let in Connor Wickham just after half-time, and with 10 minutes to go the Palace striker volleyed in a superb second.
The major negative for Albion was the loss of Chris Brunt, who was carried off just before half-time after landing awkwardly in an innocuous-looking tussle with Wilfried Zaha.
The home fans had shown their appreciation for the 31-year-old before and during the game a week after he was hit in the face by a coin thrown by a Baggies fan following the FA Cup loss to Reading.
Brunt will have a scan on his knee on Sunday, and Pulis admitted: “We’re really concerned about him.”
But the manager was full of praise for the reaction of the fans, who displayed a banner saying: “Brunty: One of us” as the teams walked out.
Pulis said: “The response, the letters and everything we’ve had coming through the door from our supporters has been absolutely fantastic.
“It’s a very famous club, it’s got tremendous tradition, and I think it really shook a lot of supporters. There was a definite coming together today of let’s show everybody that we are what we are – a good club with good support.
“Like everybody else they’ll have a moan and a groan if things are not going well but we’re not a club that condone people throwing stuff, especially at their own, and I thought they were wonderful today.”