Stoke City striker Saido Berahino has released an explosive interview with BBC Sport in which he claims that the drugs ban that he served earlier in the year came after his drink was spiked and that “no one” protected him at West Bromwich Albion. The 23-year-old has become something of a controversial figure within the football fraternity during the last eighteen months during a tumultuous period at The Hawthorns.
After bursting onto the scene during the 2014/15 season with 20 goals the striker then fell out of favour and form after a bid from Tottenham Hotspur was turned down on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2015. West Brom refused to cash in on their young starlet and Berahino found himself frozen out of the first team picture by Tony Pulis who publically questioned his fitness, attitude and character. However, the striker found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in February when it was revealed his omission by The Baggies was partly down to an eight-week suspension after traces of a recreational drug were found in his system.
Speaking about his drug’s ban, Berahino explained that the amount of the substance in his system was “really low”, leading him to claim that his drink had been spiked whilst he was in a nightclub: “I was in a nightclub, so I hold my hand up for being irresponsible [but] to be banned for something you haven’t really done is hard to take. You go on a night out, you don’t know who you are around and there are people who are out to get you. I still cannot understand who would want to do that to me.”
Life at the Hawthorns
In January, Saido Berahino finally confirmed an exit from The Hawthorns after he secured a £12,000,000 transfer to Stoke City. However, news of his suspension for drug use was leaked to the media just days before the striker was set to line-up for The Potters against West Bromwich Albion in February, leading to a very public bust-up between the two clubs.
The striker has made it abundantly clear that he still harbours an element of ill feeling towards his former club. Berahino rejected claims that he was protected by The Baggies and explained how he came to “hate” the place where he had started his career as an 11-year-old academy player:
“No one protected me at that club.”
“I was depressed. Every morning I walked in the training ground [and] I didn’t want to be there. It was hard not doing what I really love – that’s what killed me the most. Going from loving something [to] hating the place that has made you is hard to take. Hate is a strong word but I really didn’t want to be there.”
Berahino has also hit back at claims that he was unfit at the start of the season. The 23-year-old was frozen out of the first team picture at West Brom and sent to a training camp in France by Tony Pulis who publicly criticised the striker’s fitness levels. However, Berahino insists that he was fully prepared for the new season and questioned how he could be “unfit” if he had just completed a “full pre-season and started four games” during the summer.
Saido Berahino is now looking to put his West Bromwich Albion nightmare behind him and is focusing on rejuvenating his career in The Potteries with Stoke City.
The Potters have taken a significant gamble, worth £12,000,000, on a player who has barely featured in a competitive game for the previous eighteen months and there is no guarantee that the striker will rediscover the prolific form in front of goal that made him such a valuable asset in 2015. However, Mark Hughes clearly has faith that the 23-year-old still has time on his side and believes that he will flourish at the Bet365 Stadium if nurtured in the correct manner.
In reality, Berahino has struggled to make an impact at Stoke since his arrival in January. The Striker has made six appearances for The Potters, four of which have come from the bench, and has yet to find the back of the net. He certainly looks fit, but he appears to lack the sharpness that made him such a prolific goal scorer during the 2014/14 campaign and it is clear that he needs regular playing time after eighteen months away from the game. Mark Hughes seems willing to give his new signing time to settle in and has given Berahino a starting role in each of Stoke’s previous two league fixtures, converting to a 4-4-2 formation so that the striker can play as a pair with Jonathan Walters.
Berahino certainly has an awful lot to prove, both to himself, his detractors and those at Stoke City who have placed so much faith in him. However, it is unlikely that we will see a drastic improvement in his performances until next season where, hopefully, he will be able to complete a full pre-season schedule without being drawn into any off-field controversies. The next campaign could well make or break Berahino’s career, which started so brightly and now needs to be rejuvenated.
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