Thomas-Asante a ‘shining example’ for the lower leagues

Brandon Thomas-Asante came on in the 70th minute against Burnley – and scored in the 98th

West Bromwich Albion new boy Brandon Thomas-Asante made a dream debut as he came off the bench to equalize for the Baggies at The Hawthorns in the 98th minute on Friday.

Just 48 hours after signing from Salford City, he scrambled the ball to deny Vincent Kompany’s Burnley three points and drive Twitter crazy.

And Albion boss Steve Bruce promises he’s not the only hidden gem.

“He’s a shining example for players in the lower league,” Bruce told BBC Radio WM.

“It’s a big achievement, isn’t it? It was so refreshing to see him on the day he signed to see someone who looked so enthusiastic, with a big smile on his face.

“His mum and dad were also proud that he had this opportunity. It was a bit of a throwback, to see someone who feels like he just won the lottery. And, when he scored that goal, I’m sure he thought he really had.

“Sometimes all you need is a break and I’ve seen enough of it to deserve that break.”

The powerful 5ft 11in (180cm) striker was actually recommended to Bruce by one of Thomas-Asante’s team-mates at League Two side Salford, Bruce’s son-in-law, former Oldham Athletic, Leeds United, Fulham, QPR and Millwall striker Matt Smith. .

Cyril’s photo

But even before Thomas-Asante had kicked a ball for Albion, the Smethwick End were singing his name.

And the 23-year-old attributed that warm welcome simply to the power of social media.

On his signing day, Thomas-Asante posted on Instagram a photo taken a few years ago of him with Albion legend, the late Cyrille Regis.

“It meant a lot to meet Cyrille at the start of my career,” said Thomas-Asante. “He was really encouraging and liked the way I was playing.

“He’s not just a legend of West Bromwich Albion but also of football in general. And it comes to mind now that I’m here that I’m lucky enough to return that faith he showed in me.

“On social media, they really appealed to me the last few days. And I was just happy to be able to reward the fans. If only I could now create half as many memories as him.”

Brandon Thomas-Asante scored 30 times in three seasons at Salford
Brandon Thomas-Asante scored 30 times in three seasons at Salford

Much like Regis himself, who started out in non-League football with Hayes, and Bruce, who started in the former Third Division at Gillingham, Thomas-Asante has spent his time in the lower leagues.

After coming through hometown club Milton Keynes Dons, he made his MK debut under Karl Robinson in August 2016.

But Robinson then left two months later and, under a rapid succession of Dons managers, he spent two spells on loan outside the league, first at Sutton United and then on a lower level with Oxford City, to being discharged by MK’s boss. Paul Tisdale at the end of the 2018-19 season.

He first joined Ebbsfleet that summer but had made just three substitute appearances before being signed on deadline day by Salford and then newly promoted to League Two.

And the last three seasons have been productive – 97 starts, 30 goals and finally that great chance to join Albion.

He arrived to join a club playing good football under Bruce this season, but still under a cloud after another big-money injury last season in January signing Daryl Dike – then Albion’s frustrating deadline day when two more offers for Fulham midfielder Josh Onomah and Brighton’s Steven Alzate both failed to cross the line.

But Thomas-Asante has so far proved to be a little ray of sunshine.

And, roared by the Baggies faithful, who kept believing, having already looked at a real handful when he arrived, he came with the goods.

All he did was win Albion a sixth draw in eight league games. But, Bruce said, “more importantly, it feels like a win.”

“I showed that I could be trusted”

“The coach said to go on and get him to score a goal,” Thomas-Asante said. “He said it with optimism. I don’t know if he really expected this to happen, but it allowed me to show that I can be trusted.

“There are a lot of good players in Ligue 2 waiting for their opportunity – and not just in Ligue 2, in all the lower leagues.

“There have always been people in the locker room who have had bigger careers than me, but I have always set myself high goals.

“I could feel the extra quality. You have to be a bit more precise on the ball. There’s a disparity but it’s doable. And now I just have to keep learning.

“I also played in the National League and didn’t score a goal there – and now I have the championship.”

Steve Bruce and Brandon Thomas-Asante were talking to BBC Radio WM’s Rob Gurney.

Thomas-Asante a 'shining example' for the lower leagues

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