Manager Tony Pulis believes West Brom did all they could to help support Saido Berahino and feels the 23-year-old may well have been “thrown under the bus” by another club.
The Daily Mail has reported Berahino tested positive for a recreational drug during his time at The Hawthorns. Both West Brom and the player’s new club, Stoke, have confirmed he was banned, but stopped short of saying exactly why. The Football Association has declined to comment.
During the time-frame of the suspension, which ran from October 1 until he was available again on December 11, both Pulis and Albion consistently maintained the striker was unfit.
Berahino’s career stalled in 2015 after a potential move to Tottenham collapsed, with the player threatening to go on strike. He signed for Stoke for an initial £12million last month, and could face his former club when the Potters travel to West Brom on Saturday.
Pulis maintains Albion had always been “open and honest with everything they have done with Saido”, while defending why the player’s ban was not previously made public because of being “a personal matter” and under directives from the FA not to release the information.
While wanting to now draw a line under the matter, the Baggies manager suggested other employers may not have been so accommodating.
“This club has been absolutely fantastic towards Saido with the way it’s protected him, the way it’s looked after him and the way it’s tried to protect him from everything in any way, shape and form,” Pulis said.
“And he should be really grateful because I have been at other clubs where the kid could easily have been thrown under the bus.
“But it shows the depth and quality of the people in this football club that they have tried to protect one of their own.
“Unfortunately sometimes you look back and think, ‘Was it worth it?’
“But, having said that, they’ve done the decent thing, this football club, and really tried to find the high ground and stay with the high ground.
“Anything Stoke asked for, we told them the truth.
“They knew and it was a little bit disappointing when people were coming out and saying, ‘He wasn’t playing, he’s being held back’ or whatever.”
Stoke boss Mark Hughes says he has no issue with selecting Berahino this weekend and believes the player “hasn’t reached his peak yet”.
Pulis, though, is focusing on getting the best out of his own squad.
“Personally I don’t give a damn now,” he said. “I’ve spent two and a half years at this football club and he’s not my problem any more,” Pulis said when asked if he thought Hughes could help get through to the former England Under-21 international.
“I wish him all the best. Saido was very, very good in the first six months I was at this football club. He didn’t go to Tottenham and from that point on it’s been a real struggle in every way, shape and form.
“It’s Mark Hughes’ opportunity now to get the kid playing. If he gets the kid playing he has got a really good player.”