Luke Moore has been a perplexing enigma ever since he swapped his footballing home of Villa Park for pastures new at The Hawthorns, but the West Bromwich Albion striker is showing signs he could finally fulfil his undoubted potential this season.
The 23-year-old has demonstrated during his relatively short career so far that he certainly has talent but with Villa, and so far with Albion, he has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot.
In 87 appearances for Villa, Moore scored just 14 times, but his fantastic hat-trick against Middlesbrough at the Riverside in February 2006 demonstrated his potential and convinced Albion to part with £3.5 million for the Birmingham-born striker.
So far Moore has been a disappointment, scoring just once in 30 appearances for Albion, and his future with the club looked in doubt following relegation to the Championship. But under the guidance of new head coach Roberto Di Matteo, Moore has shown glimpses of the player he could be.
He opened the scoring in the 2-0 friendly win at Shrewsbury Town on Wednesday night, his second goal in three games, and was even given the captain’s armband in the second half after Jonathan Greening was substituted.
Di Matteo said he has been delighted with application and attitude Moore has shown so far, and hasn’t ruled anyone out of the starting line-up for the opening league fixture against Newcastle United.
“I have a rough idea on my first XI but not the whole team yet,” said Di Matteo. “I’m still experimenting a little bit and I’m still looking at players.
“I’m pleased with everyone. They’ve all been working really hard in pre-season and Luke has been brilliant so far. He’s been training and playing really well and putting the ball in the back of the net, which is always good for a striker.”
Di Matteo isn’t the only one to have been impressed by a rejuvenated Moore. Midfielder Robert Koren, who made his first appearance of pre-season after a knee injury, believes Moore’s time has finally come.
“Luke has been with us a long time and he hasn’t had much opportunity to show what he can do,” said Koren.
“He is a good player and is working hard in training. He has tried really hard and he has scored a couple of goals, which is good for his confidence.
“I hope he will work hard and stay free of injury, and get a chance to show he is a good player. It looks like our coaches have a lot of confidence in him.”
New signing Simon Cox and midfielder Graham Dorrans both missed the Shrews encounter because of injury but both could feature on Saturday against Walsall at the Banks’s Stadium.
Cox missed his second successive game with an ankle problem and Dorrans only returned to full training on Tuesday after recovering from a broken metatarsal.
“It’s about what the players do on the pitch and how the units work together,” said Di Matteo. “I’m pleased with our victory – it’s always nice – but the result isn’t important at this stage.
“We’re working to get everyone fit for the start of the season and we should have one or two more players back for Saturday.
“Simon Cox should be involved on Saturday although he’s not training fully. Graham Dorrans is close and might be involved on Saturday.”