Lethal Louie Barry the latest academy star for West Brom
One of Albion’s academy stars has sparked an international tug of war for his services.
Louie Barry may only be 15 years old, but the lethal striker’s finishing ability has made him hot property on the international scene.
This week he followed in Harry Kane’s footsteps by winning the golden boot in a successful tournament for England.
Barry netted three goals to help England’s under-16s lift the Val-de-Marne trophy after beating Austria 4-1, Japan 3-1, and hosts France by the same scoreline.
But the teenager also qualifies for the Republic of Ireland via two of his grandparents and, next week, he is due to represent their under-16s in the 2018 Victory Shield.
Because he is so young, Barry is able to play for both countries at this stage of his career.
But while the countries publicly slug it out for the allegiance of West Ham’s 19-year-old Declan Rice, Barry’s own future is one also being keenly watched.
The youngster, who hails from Sutton Coldfield and attends Bishop Walsh Catholic School, was delighted with his golden boot for England.
“It was the best experience I’ve had in football and one that I’ll remember for a long time,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have had other great experiences but as this was a Uefa tournament it’s my proudest moment so far.
“I know there is a lot of hard work to come but I’m really enjoying my football at the moment.”
It won’t just be international teams keeping an eye on such a prodigious young talent, either.
Academy manager Mark Harrison knows how difficult it can be to keep hold of his best youngsters.
But he hopes Barry will go on to enjoy a successful career at The Hawthorns.
“Louie is a player of great promise and his impressive form at Val-de-Marne is testimony to that,” said Harrison.
“He knows there is a long road ahead with lots of hard work to be done, but if he remains focussed on his ultimate goal then he has more than enough ability.
“Louie is one of a number of young academy players who have represented England in recent weeks and we remain immensely proud of their achievements.
“It is the result of years of hard work from players and their coaches.”
Should Barry continue on his trajectory, he will just be the latest in a long line of players to emerge from Albion’s academy.
Saturday’s game against Leeds United brings into focus the work Harrison and his coaching staff have done.
Marcelo Bielsa’s team have former Baggies academy striker Kemar Roofe leading their line with Tyler Roberts – another Albion product – as back-up.
Izzy Brown, who left the Baggies for Chelsea when he was 16, is on loan at Leeds too, although he’s currently injured.
But there is still talent at the club. This season, Albion have had more England youth team internationals than either Manchester United or Liverpool.