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Oliver Burke edging closer to West Brom first team

West Bromwich Albion | Published: | Last Updated:

Oliver Burke is knocking on the door of the Albion first team after getting valuable minutes under his belt over the international break.

Oliver Burke in action for the under-21s last week. (AMA)

The £15million winger, who is yet to start a game for the Baggies, scored a goal while captaining Scotland under-21s to a 2-0 victory over Latvia this week.

Burke’s Albion career got off to a stuttering start because of a hamstring injury but he returned to action last week with an hour of football for the under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy.

The 20-year-old, who was signed from Champions League outfit RB Leipzig in the summer, followed that up with more minutes over the break.

And assistant head coach Ben Garner says he is edging closer to being selected for the first team.

"We're looking forward to getting Oliver in with some minutes under his belt and bringing him that much closer to selection,” said Garner.

“He's a hugely talented player who has shown his potential at Nottingham Forest and has experience of playing in Germany.

"He gives us something different which we will definitely need at stages throughout the season. He can prove he's a capable Premier League player.”

Burke will be vying for a spot on the wing with Chris Brunt, Matt Phillips, and James McClean, who will be buoyed by his crucial goal for the Republic of Ireland against Wales.

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McClean and Burke haven’t started any of the last five games, but one of Garner’s jobs is to make sure those players not in the team are ready to step up when called upon.

"It's vital,” he said. “We have a big role as staff in that to make sure they get what they need. I think we're quite good at that.

"My view has always been that players that aren't training, the training needs to be special for them - it needs to be better for them than it is the players that are playing regularly.

"If you're in the team, generally you’re happy and you're fit.

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“We need to make sure the players that aren't in the team feel loved, get attention and that they're fit enough and ready.

"They might not play for four or five weeks but then when they have a chance and are in - if we haven't looked after them and they aren't ready to take their chance ¬- it damages the team and isn't fair on them.

"From a coaching point of view I always pride myself on the level of the sessions and the standard, especially for those players that aren't playing, is very high. They feel wanted and enjoy the sessions.”

Albion don’t play until Monday, when they make the short trip to Leicester City, but with so many players out on international duty over the break, Garner says that delay will help ease preparations.

“With the international break I think it’s very helpful playing on the Monday night,” he said. “On Thursday we’ll have all the players back and we can actually do thorough preparation going into that game which as staff we much prefer.

“We like to be very detailed in how we approach the game and know everything about the opposition and have time to work the players on that.

“In the last international break before Brighton we didn’t get everyone back until the Friday.

“You’re doing one session and then you’re into the game.

“So from a coaching point of view and a preparation point of view the extra time is a big help.”

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