Club record signing Borja Valero does still have a role to play in the final eight games of the season, West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray has said.
The £4.7 million midfielder has been left out of Albion’s starting line-up since the 2-0 defeat at Everton in February and has failed to make the impact many expected after his arrival last summer from Mallorca.
However, Mowbray has said the Spaniard is still the most technically-gifted player at the club and believes his own inability to recruit a midfield enforcer to compliment Valero’s guile has not helped the 24-year-old adjust to the more physical approach in England.
After a promising start to his Albion career, Valero has faded badly as confidence has drained during Albion’s poor run of results.
As Valero was withdrawn from the front line to give him a break from the relentless onslaught of the Premier League, Mowbray decided to draft in the fresh enthusiasm and confidence of young Scottish midfielder Graham Dorrans and his decision was vindicated by the former Livingston player’s impressive full debut at West Ham United.
However, Mowbray believes Valero can still make an impact in the final two months of the season.
“I think the team is about balance and Borja understands my reasoning of why I made those changes,” Mowbray said.“In his defence, I never really managed to find the player to compliment his talent.
“I stand by the fact that I think Borja is one of the most talented individuals at the club, undoubtedly. What is required is a certain type of player to play alongside him and give a balance to the midfield which would have helped the team. I think he feels the burden of people and his team-mates looking to him for his talent.
“The results haven’t been great and I think confidence can be knocked a bit. That is why we played Graham Dorrans, because he was doing exceptionally well in the reserves and he was enjoying his football. He had a spring in his step and it seemed a very obvious decision for me to pick a player with confidence and enthusiasm for the game.
“To be fair, Graham did very well at Upton Park and Borja understood the reasoning and he is a very good pro. He took it on the chin and accepted it. He also understands that his talent is going to be required as we move on.
“His ability and decision-making with the ball is unquestionable. What Borja has found is that the incredible tempo and physicality in this league is something he needs to adapt to but, from my perspective, trying to find that balance of players in and around him is probably what I didn’t quite manage to acquire for him. Yet, I think he’s done fine. He just has to keep himself going and make sure he is ready for his next opportunity.”
Valero came on as a late substitute in Albion’s last game against Bolton Wanderers and may have a similar role to play when Stoke City visit The Hawthorns on Saturday in a must-win encounter for the Baggies.
Mowbray is expecting a similar challenge from Tony Pulis’ side to the one they faced against the directness of the Trotters two weeks ago. He said: “We have to understand what a difficult tough game it is going to be against Stoke, who bring their own types of problems to the game for us. The demands they are going to ask from our players are ones we are going to have to be at our best to deal with, but we are capable of winning the game.”