Slaven Bilic has admitted that West Bromwich Albion made an audacious move to re-sign former striker Dwight Gayle in the summer transfer window.
Gayle, who spent the 2018-19 season on-loan at the Hawthorns, has failed to make an impression at St James’ Park under manager Steve Bruce – with his last goal coming in an Albion shirt against Aston Villa in May 2019.
The 30-year-old, who completed his first 90 minutes of the season against Burnley last Saturday, joined the Baggies on loan from Newcastle with Salomon Rondon going the other way – flourished in a newly relegated Premier League side starved of confidence throughout.
The forward ended the season with 23 goals and became a quick fan favourite at the Hawthorns, where he eventually won the club’s ‘Supporters player of the season’ award.
Reports have now emerged via The Birmingham Mail that Bilic attempted and subsequently failed to bring the forward back to the Hawthorns in the summer transfer window, following the departure of several players after the club failed to achieve automatic promotion at the first time of asking.
Speaking ahead of their FA Cup clash against Newcastle United on Tuesday night, which Newcastle won 3-2, Bilic spoke of the quality Gayle possesses and continues to be a big admirer of the forward.
“When I arrived he had just left and it was, more or less, every other word was ‘Dwight Gayle, Dwight Gayle’ – he had such a great season and scored so many goals,” he said.
“Because he was so good and so instrumental last season, we wanted to get him back. We did everything to get him but it wasn’t to be. It was impossible, Bilic said. “Obviously we lost 12 players and it’s not good to have such a huge turnaround in a squad.
“It wasn’t just goals – he gave energy, he gave energy on the pitch but also at the training ground.”
Bilic’s side eventually bowed out of the FA Cup after a 3-2 defeat, despite a spirited second-half comeback. Miguel Almiron’s brace and Valentino Lazaro’s first goal for the club put the Magpies in cruise control and was eventually too much for the hosts – despite late goals from Matty Phillips and Kenneth Zohore.