Mel: Berahino important to Baggies
Published 03/04/2014 | 16:27
Pepe Mel insists Saido Berahino has a big role to play for West Brom in their fight against relegation after the dressing-room fracas that marred last weekend's draw against Cardiff.
Berahino was hit by team-mate James Morrison when he apparently refused to apologise for a mistake that led to Cardiff's late equaliser in the 3-3 stalemate.
West Brom have sought to play down the incident, saying it was a minor scuffle that was over in an instant and that it shows how much the players care.
It is also understood the club have no intention of selling 20-year-old Berahino, who signed a lucrative new contract in December tying him to Albion until 2017.
Mel insisted he would have no second thoughts about selecting Berahino for the final seven games of the season, the first of which is Saturday's trip to Norwich.
The Baggies boss said: "I've been impressed with Saido, he's worked very well this week.
"In addition to being an excellent player, he is also intelligent. He has shown this in training. And I'm sure he will continue to show this.
"I've spoken to him throughout the week. He is very positive. He will be important to us in the final seven games."
Mel did not want to elaborate on what happened in the dressing room at The Hawthorns, saying only: "Eighteen young sports players have come in disappointed.
"It's normal they would argue among themselves. After that it's normal to have a beer and forget about it. The players were disappointed they hadn't won the game for the supporters."
One thing Mel was disappointed about was that the incident had found its way into the press.
He said: "The dressing room is the home environment. If any news gets out, that is bad news for us. What happens in the dressing room, should stay in the dressing room. I hope we have a positive reaction from this at Norwich."
Although West Brom have been keen to stress the incident is in the past, they were forced to issue a statement on Wednesday night with quotes from Berahino denying he was considering legal action against Morrison.
Berahino posted a cryptic tweet on Thursday with a quote from the Bible, saying: "A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly."
The tweet was subsequently deleted.
Meanwhile, former West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie weighed into the debate, saying Berahino should learn from his experience and leave West Brom.
Odemwingie had a high-profile and bitter falling-out with the Baggies in January 2013 after failing to push through a move to QPR.
The striker eventually left the Hawthorns last summer for Cardiff before moving on again to Stoke this January.
Odemwingie wrote on Twitter: "I see a repeat of my situation if he doesn't leave this summer. Senior pros haha."
Intriguingly, the tweet was favourited by Berahino.
Mel shrugged off Odemwingie's intervention, saying: "England is a free country. Everyone can say what they like.
"I don't have the pleasure of knowing him (Odemwingie). It's not right for me to comment on him. The West Bromwich Albion training ground is the same as all dressing rooms."
Odemwingie's current manager, Mark Hughes, hinted he would rather his player had stayed out of the debate.
Hughes said: "Peter is a guy that is doing well for us. Personally he has a view, as everybody has in football in terms of previous clubs, previous experiences, but I always think it's sometimes better just to move on."