West Brom: Taylor Gardner-Hickman exit justified as Baggies loanee targets midfield role
Carlos Corberan had very little room to manoeuvre this summer as he looked to strengthen his West Brom squad, having been afforded very little money to spend.
While Jeremey Sarmiento, Josh Maja and Pipa all arrived at The Hawthorns, it was a bit of s surprise to see Taylor Gardner-Hickman join Championship rivals Bristol City on an initial loan deal with the Robins having the option to make the transfer permanent for £1.3 million next summer [Bristol Live, 23 August].
The decision came as a shock to a lot of supporters, given Gardner-Hickman had featured 36 times for the Baggies in all competitions last season, but Corberan stated that he didn’t need the cover in midfield this season, having tended to use the academy product at right back [Express & Star, 26 August].
While the Baggies are still short of options at full-back, with summer signing Pipa yet to make his debut, it seems the Baggies boss was wise to allow Gardner-Hickman to depart this summer, as he is focused on playing in midfield for Bristol City.
Assistant Robins coach Curtis Fleming spoke to Bristol Live (29 September) and said: “I think probably his preferred position is midfield, and I think you’ve seen why: he can handle the ball very well, his passing range is very, very good. But we haven’t seen him fit yet, have we?”
Since making the switch to Aston Gate, the 21-year-old has only started once, in a 2-0 win over Swansea, playing as a right-back but appeared for the City under-21’s side in his preferred central midfield role.
The Baggies have plenty of cover in the middle of the park, to a degree that they would have struggled to afford their academy product consistent minutes this season, with Alex Mowatt, Jayson Molumby, John Swift, Okay Yokuslu and Nathaniel Chalobah all competing for minutes on the pitch.
Gardner-Hickman would not have been used regularly when competing against the other midfielders in Corberan’s ranks and he has proven both in a West Brom shirt and a Bristol City one, that he is more comfortable in the centre of the pitch than he is in defence.
Between Pipa, Darnell Furlong and Matthew Phillips, Corberan has more natural options to play on the right of defence and it seems like a wise call for the Baggies to save some wages by loaning out Gardner-Hickman.
What is interesting to note is that it comes across once again like this deal has almost already been agreed already, with Fleming mentioning it will be interesting to see where the midfielder is “in a year or two.”