Tony Pulis vows to help Jonathan Leko develop hard-working edge
Published 08/05/2016 | 12:36
Tony Pulis has vowed to instil a hard-grafting edge into "unbelievable talent" Jonathan Leko to help West Brom's teenage forward fulfil his vast potential.
Leko has in the last fortnight become the first player born in 1999 to start a Premier League match, with boss Pulis predicting a bright future for the 17-year-old.
The taskmaster Baggies boss pledged to keep the pacy youngster on the straight and narrow however, in comments hardly hiding a thinly-veiled reference to misfit forward Saido Berahino.
Pulis has consigned richly-talented striker Berahino to a bit-part role in the second half of a season where the 22-year-old has continued to agitate for a transfer. The West Brom manager naturally wants no repeat with Leko.
"Leko has got unbelievable talent, but talent alone doesn't make a player," said Pulis, after the teenager's second consecutive start in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bournemouth.
"You've got to have big character, dedication, and you've got to be focused.
"And without those other three building blocks he won't reach the potential that he's got.
"Because ability alone doesn't work, you've got to have them with it.
"Especially today there's so much going on it's easy to be distracted, so he has to make sure he gets them.
"It's up to us he gets that into him, and make sure he keeps his feet on the ground.
"He's got a couple of solid pros in that group who will keep him right if he steps out of line, and I certainly will if I get a sniff that he's doing something he shouldn't."
West Brom can still better last season's final Premier League tally of 44 by one point with final-day victory over Liverpool, but the midlands club have now slipped to eight matches without a win.
Craig Gardner's missed penalty cost Pulis' men that elusive win at Dean Court on Saturday, though the former Stoke boss was encouraged by goal-scoring striker Salomon Rondon's all-round effort.
Pulis believes the 26-year-old will be ready to hit full tilt next term, having already struck nine goals in his maiden year in English football.
"He's a good player, he's found it hard at times, the pace and the intensity of this league," said Pulis, of Venezuela striker Rondon.
"It's his first year with us in England, the language and everything else.
"But his attitude has been fantastic and we're looking forward to him having a big year next season.
"If you speak to him he's probably missed six or seven chances he would normally put away."
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is already busy planning for the Cherries' second season in the Premier League, expecting a hectic summer ahead off the field.
The money from the new £5.14 billon Premier League TV deal kicks in next term, with all the top-flight clubs able to flex even more pumped-up muscle in the transfer market.
Cherries boss Howe admitted one of the top challenges in that inflated market is finding value for money when eyeing overseas recruits.
"I think we've seen extra money having an effect already, it's changed year on year: fees have become higher, wages have become higher, agents' fees have become higher," said Howe.
"The whole thing has a knock-on effect, and yes foreign clubs will know Premier League clubs are going to be quite wealthy.
"So I've got no doubt that the trend will continue.
"It is important that we grow the club, that's my feeling. And the only way we're going to grow the club is by staying in the Premier League."