Having been groomed in the same rarefied atmosphere at Old Trafford, spent an immensely formative season in the Championship and more time in the Manchester United reserves than they care to remember, it is fitting that best mates Paul McShane and Luke Steele arrive at The Hawthorns together. They come as a pair.

Reduced to the role of makeweights in the loan deal that took West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak in the opposite direction, the friends arrive in the Black Country looking to elevate their fledging careers to another level.

While Steele, also a goalkeeper, spent all of last season in the reserves unable to break the duopoly of the seniors ahead of him, in the previous campaign he had a successful eight-month spell at Coventry City during which his 32 appearances were a big factor in the Sky Blues avoiding relegation.

McShane, meanwhile, went out on loan to Brighton and Hove Albion in 2005-6 and while his efforts to keep the Seagulls in the league were ultimately futile, the centre-back ended up winning the club's award for supporters' player of the year.

In many ways both can claim to have grown up in the country's toughest division and at the tender ages of 21 and 20 respectively, they are now ready to prove themselves as part of the team that gets out of it.

"It would be great if we could both play in the Albion team that went up," said McShane who acknowledged the fact that leaving the world's most famous football team had been made easier by the fact his pal was coming with him.

"It's always nice to have someone around that you know, he's a good lad, it was great moving here with him.

"It helps you settle in seeing a familiar face. We came to Man United at the same time and he lived down the road from me in Manchester. I know him like the back of my hand - he is one of my best mates in football."

Both are hoping to force their way into an Albion team that has not lost a game in this nascent campaign.

Steele's task may be the harder of the two. He might have moved one place up the pecking order, only Pascal Zuberbuhler blocks his way now instead of Edwin van der Sar and Tim Howard, but it should not be forgotten that Albion actually spent money on the Swiss and must therefore be considered unlikely to bench him any time soon.

For his part McShane must negotiate a way past either Curtis Davies, a defender with a £10 million price tag, or Chris Perry, a hugely experienced operator who looks to be the best of his type outside the Premiership.

Nevertheless they rightfully consider themselves closer to the first team and the oxygen that everyone young career needs.

For that reason the decision to walk away from the top flight was not a difficult one: "I wanted to keep progressing and going upwards in my career instead of taking a backward step," McShane said.

"I would have done that if I had stayed at Man United I probably would have played reserves so for me this was the next step."

Steele was also tired of playing in empty stadiums where the loudest noise was his own breathing. "I must have played my first reserve game when I was 15 at Peterborough," Steele said.

"I played all of last season in the reserves at United, sometimes it is hard but they are the ones where you have to be mentally strong and make sure that you are putting in good performances."

His Albion career started in the same position on Monday night, playing at The Hawthorns against the Huddersfield Town second string.

At least he managed to impress manager Bryan Robson with his first penalty save for several months.

"If I am playing reserves this season then I am just going to treat it as if I am playing in the first team. My only ambition is to get in the team."