West Bromwich Albion have hardly ever been a side known to be a hub of upcoming youngsters, who are ready to take the world by storm. And Tony Pulis has always been a manager who prefers to make maximum utilisation of bruisers in whichever side he manages, be it his famous Stoke City outfit, his Crystal Palace side or his current West Brom side. The presence of youngsters under Tony Pulis is slightly rare, as compared to managers like Sam Allardyce, David Moyes or Martin O’Neill. And youngsters usually aren’t as physically adept as Pulis usually desires a player to be, such that he fits into his style straight away. But if a youngster, who is in no way a dominant physical specimen on the pitch, is coming through the ranks at Pulis’ club and the baseball-cap loving manager is fielding him, it does suggest that the player is in one way or another, a quality player.
And one such player to have shined under Tony Pulis is West Brom youngster Sam Field.
Who is he?
Currently only 18 years old, young Sam began to make his mark amongst the Hawthorns faithfuls during the fag end of the previous season, in which Pulis had guided the Baggies to a 14th placed finish.
During West Brom’s 2-1 loss at home to Manchester City, Field was named on the bench but wasn’t called on to make his first ever senior team appearance. In early March, during a game that saw Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth holding West Brom to a 1-1 draw, Field was again on the bench but much like the game against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, he didn’t come on.
A day prior to West Brom’s final game of the season at home to Liverpool, Field was adjudged the Best Academy Player at West Brom, helping him make his maiden showing for the first team against Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, who were held to a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns. And alongside young winger Jonathan Leko and Tyler Roberts, Field emerged as the third youngster to make a name for himself.
At the end of June, Field penned his first professional deal at West Brom, which kept him at the club that the youngster has supported since childhood for a year, with an option of an extension of 12 more months.
A month before he penned a new deal, Field earned a call-up to the England Under-18s side, who were supposed to play South Korea twice in early June. His debut for the national side didn’t go as per plan, as the youngster was sent of after receiving his second yellow, in a 2-0 defeat for the Neil Dewsnip’s Young Lions.
This season, Field’s involvement with the first team has been a bit more tangible than it was last season. The midfielder started and played full 120 minutes for the Baggies against Northampton during their EFL Cup tie, which saw the League One outfit oust West Brom on penalties. And last week, Field made his first ever Premier League start for Tony Pulis’ side during his side’s goalless draw at home to Aitor Karanka’s newly promoted Middlesbrough.
Field was deployed as a central midfielder in West Brom’s 4-5-1 formation, as Darren Fletcher and Argentine Cladio Yacob started alongside him in the triumvirate. Yacob’s tendency to drop into deeper areas and shield the back four meant that the Baggies played in a 4-1-4-1 shape off the ball, with Field and Fletcher playing behind Salomon Rondon, doing both the defensive and attacking job.
The first look at the youngster suggests that he exudes composure and tranquility. And the way he passes the ball around the park shows that appearance isn’t deceptive in his instance. He dictates possession with a certain amount of confidence that defines his character. Even with numbers around the youngster, he is tough to be harried and hustled easily.
And on the ball, Field may not be the best of tacklers or the most beastly ball-winners, but his ability to press the opposition midfield often leads to a loose ball being sprayed by them, succumbing to his pressure. In the midfield three against Middlesbrough, Field spearheaded the pressing from the the front, showing glimpses of good positioning as ‘Boro found it difficult to break down the packed Baggies midfield. And Field’s pressing, which often forced the opposition from Riverside to track back, was a key aspect of that. Due to this, Middlesbrough could not help but play in front of West Brom.
Field is someone who can play on the left of the midfield too and his usage of his preferred left foot allows him to do so rather effortlessly. And new signing Brendan Galloway’s attacking mindset, which often left the left flank exposed, meant that Field had to often slot in at left back. And the Englishman performed his duties at left back as if it were his usual position of playing.
Field’s balance on the ball is good too and his demeanour seems to carry the ball with some elegance. And he’s got the pace to dribble the ball out of crowded areas too.
Considering his age, weaknesses will obviously be there. One is his heading, which is important for every single Premier League player. And Field’s heading attributes have to improve. Although, in the first game, he had no need for heading the ball in crucial areas. But as he ages, he has to improve this trait of his.
Another part of his game that Field has to improve is his tackling. He certainly will used in a variety of positions in the future and under Tony Pulis, who prefers battlers more than anyone else, Field has to become slightly more adept when it comes to recovering balls in the midfield. His off the ball traits such as pressing would certainly come in handy in improving that aspect.
Field has arrived onto the scene at a time when Tony Pulis has unearthed a host of youngsters in Tyler Roberts, Jonathan Leko and 16-year-old Kane Wilson, who featured for West Brom against Northampton in the EFL Cup. And Brendan Galloway’s loan acquisition from Everton probably goes to prove that maybe, Pulis is attempting to fiddle around with West Brom’s style by bringing in players who are adept in the technical side of the game, rather than the physical style of it.
Although, the recent stalemate against Aitor Karanka’s side did convey the fact that a figment of his style would, without a shadow of doubt, linger no matter what kind of players feature. But Galloway added loads of pace in wide areas, as he marauded up and down the pitch, with Field providing defensive solidarity on that flank.
And the manner in which Field was used last week suggests that Tony Pulis has figured out the way that Field prefers to play on the pitch. His stature is fit for the Premier League, despite being just 18 and his composure, which is certainly top notch. And although, he isn’t a complete package yet, but is certainly a player that West Brom would be desperate to hold onto for the future.