Who can benefit from a good preseason?

Posted by Matthew Evans

Christian Hofer/Getty ImagesMarkus Rosenberg has two goals and an assist this preseason for West Brom.

West Brom are now well and truly into their preseason campaign, having just returned from their tour of Austria and Hungary. They played two games, losing to Hannover 2-1 before bouncing back to defeat the Puskas Academy 3-0 Monday as Nicolas Anelka scored his first two goals in an Albion shirt. Before the tour, the Baggies defeated Tamworth 4-0 in a behind-closed-doors friendly.

It is a positive start to preseason for Steve Clarke's side, although they did lose to the best side they came up against. Of course, preseason isn't really about the results but the players getting fit, forming new combinations and in some cases for players to impress Clarke, perhaps elevating themselves in the pecking order.

Here's a few West Brom players who may benefit from a good preseason outing:

Craig Dawson: The England Under-21 centre half seems to be highly rated amongst the West Brom hierarchy and the international setup, but has so far found his path to the first team blocked by the formidable partnership of Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson.

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He spent the majority of the second half of last season on loan with Bolton in the Championship, where he earned rave reviews. But Dawson could still not force his way into the Baggies' first team at the back end of the season.

There is no doubting Dawson’s talent in my eyes. But he is at the age where he is going to need regular games; otherwise he will start regressing. There remains a degree of uncertainty around Olsson’s future, with him constantly being linked with moves to London clubs while Gareth McAuley isn’t getting any younger.

If Dawson can show in preseason that he has the ability to step up -- and, perhaps more important, show he can form a good partnership with either of these two -- he could see himself getting more first-team action in the coming season. He has, however had an inauspicious start to preseason, getting credit for an own goal in the loss to Hannover.

Goran Popov: The Macedonian international has returned to the Hawthorns for a second loan spell with the club. That suggests that while he didn’t do enough to warrant Albion to make the deal permanent, they saw something in him to bring him back for a second season from Dynamo Kyiv.

He had an impressive start to his Baggies career with a good display in the derby against Aston Villa, followed up by another promising display in the next game against QPR.

Just as it seemed Popov was getting going, he picked up an injury that allowed Liam Ridgewell back into the team. Again, Popov forced his way back after Ridgewell was injured, but Popov ruined any chance of establishing himself with the spitting incident with Spurs' Kyle Walker, which blocked his progress for the majority of the season.

However, Ridgewell didn’t exactly cover himself in glory during this period, with his displays not living up to the ones he produced when he first joined under Roy Hodgson. I certainly think left back is very much up for grabs going into the opener at home against Southampton Aug. 17. It is now down to Popov to outperform Ridgewell and earn himself the opportunity to really tie down the position.

Markus Rosenberg: The Swedish international certainly had a struggle last season, his first in the Premier League. He started only five league games and didn't score. It was very disappointing, particularly as someone who arrived with a great pedigree in Europe's top leagues. Most of the season he found himself behind Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku -- there is no shame in that, but it must have been disappointing for him.

It seemed as if the Swede would be moved on during the summer transfer window, but there seems to have been a change in heart from club and player, with the forward now insisting he is happy to stay and fight for his place. Rosenberg has had a good start to preseason, with goals against Tamworth and Hannover before setting up Anelka’s second against Puskas. If Rosenberg can continue this form throughout the preseason, he may find more first-team chances coming his way in the new season.

Saido Berainho: I still expect West Brom to bring in another central striker, but this season could be a breakthrough one for the academy product. He impressed greatly on a loan spell with Peterborough before Christmas despite the fact he only scored twice. He looked set to be given a taste of first-team action with the Baggies when injuries hit, including one that ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

However, he was taken on the preseason tour and does look set to be introduced to the first team squad, perhaps as the fifth striker. One thing that Berainho has in his favour is his ability to play both the central striking role but also the wide forward Clarke likes to use. A couple preseason goals might give Berainho some first-team chances.

Finally, a word for the Albion youth team I saw play at Hereford Saturday. It was a very young side up against an experienced, strong one, but Albion won 2-1, coming back from a 1-0 deficit. The most impressive player on the pitch was centre half Callam Jones, who had a taste of first-team football last season as the 19th man in a couple games. It certainly seems to be a position Albion are blessed with young talent in, as Donervon Daniels toured with the senior side.


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