Stoke: Gary Rowett believes Stoke City’s relegation to the Championship may help Saido Berahino rediscover his goalscoring touch, with the striker’s last competitive goal coming more than two years ago. Before City kicked off against Leeds on Sunday it was 890 days since Berahino last struck competitively, for West Bromwich Albion against Crystal Palace on 27 February 2016, but Rowett, since his appointment in May, has been impressed with the player’s attitude.
The 24-year-old striker has struggled with fitness and form but staff at Stoke have told Rowett that Berahino is in the best shape he has been since his pounds 12 million arrival from West Brom last year. He admitted to “losing his way” at West Brom, while he was ordered to train away from the Stoke first team under Paul Lambert at the end of last season after being reprimanded for poor timekeeping. But Rowett insists Berahino has been given a clean slate this summer.
The 24-year-old striker has struggled with fitness and form but staff at Stoke have told Rowett that Berahino is in the best shape he has been since his arrival.
“Saido has been really good so far. I think he’s worked incredibly hard and has been as fit as people at the club have ever seen him,” Rowett said. “We know he is a goal scorer but he is a goalscorer that hasn’t scored goals for the past couple of seasons. I think for us really it’s to see whether we can reinvigorate that but we are also mindful we cannot rely on that because that would be foolish. He is trying his hardest to get his career back on track and we’re trying our hardest to see if we can help him to do that, and we’ll see where that goes.
“I had a good conversation with him when he first came in. I think sometimes that honesty and that openness of the conversation [helps]. We said to him, ‘Listen, we will view you the same as everyone else. You have to work hard, you have to do certain things and commit like the rest of the group, and then it will be down to your performances, it’s as simple as that.’ If he is a striker that scores goals, it won’t matter what he has done in the past. He will be a valuable asset to us.
“He’s a player that has scored 20-plus goals in the Premier League and the drop down in the division might just give him that chance — it’s not going to be any easier — to feel less pressure in terms of trying to get those goals again. He’s worked diligently; he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and he is a talented player, a great finisher, a natural finisher. I think the challenge is to overcome some of those barriers which have stopped him scoring goals. He’s ready and raring to go; we’ve got a really good forward line, of which we are always looking to see if we can add different things to that.”
Meanwhile, the Burundi Football Association said this past week that, after clearance from Fifa, Berahino has switched his international allegiance from England to his country of birth. He has won 47 caps at youth level and was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad in November 2014 for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia but did not feature.