West Brom boss Alan Irvine continued to restructure his first-team squad for the season ahead with the acquisition of Andre Wisdom on a season-long loan deal from Liverpool:
The 21-year-old is the sixth player to arrive at The Hawthorns since Irvine took the helm earlier this summer and, as the new manager admitted, his adaptability affords the Baggies options at the back:
“I’m delighted to welcome Andre to the club. I’ve spoken to Brendan Rodgers, who I’ve known for a very long time and who I trust implicitly. He said Andre would do a good job for us. That was reassuring. He’s a versatile lad. He’s played as a right-back for Liverpool in the Premier League last season, he also played as a full-back for Derby. He grew up as a centre-back and played on the left side of central defence for Liverpool against Preston on Saturday.”
Yorkshire-born Wisdom started his career with Bradford City’s youth team before being snapped up by Liverpool at the age of 14. After progressing through the Merseysiders’ youth system, he was finally afforded a senior debut by Brendan Rodgers in 2012/13 and, after playing 22 times across all competitions, scoring once and chipping in with a pair of assists, was farmed out on loan to Derby County in October 2013.
Utilised exclusively as a right-back by Steve McLaren, Wisdom was nailed-on for the Championship outfit. Serving up a trio of assists over 37 appearances, he helped The Rams to the Wembley Play-Off Final against QPR back in May, where, despite dominating for much of the match, they fell to a 1-0 defeat.
At international level, Wisdom has represented England at every youth level, from Under-16 to Under-21, on a total of 37 occasions and has found the net three times.
A peripheral figure at Anfield, the move has immediately brought Wisdom onto Fantasy managers’ radars due to his budget price-tag across the Fantasy games. Available for a mere 4.0 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 5.2 in the Sky Sports Fantasy game, there’s a hope that the youngster could cement a starting berth for The Baggies as Irvine looks to improve upon a dire previous season which saw the club finish just three points clear of the drop zone.
Handed a start at right-back on his debut against Sacramento Republic at the weekend, Wisdom played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 win as Irvine’s side triumphed for the fourth successive outing this summer. Whilst Fantasy suitors will be delighted with his start, the imminent arrival of Costa Rican international defender Cristian Gamboa suggests that Wisdom faces a real battle for the right-back berth as Irvine looks to strengthen following the departures of Billy Jones and Steven Reid over the summer.
However, with the 4.0-priced Chris Baird also offering an option in central midfield and right-back, the situation is far from clear right now. Whilst Irvine has cited the youngster’s versatility as key, The Baggies are not short of alternatives in central defence – new boy Joleon Lescott is favourite to get the nod after quitting champions City for the Midlands, whilst Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson and Craig Dawson are also in the mix.
Intriguingly, though, the local press reckon that the incoming Gamboa could be earmarked for an occasional role on the right of midfield. Pacier than Wisdom, he was used as a wing-back during Costa Rica’s recent World Cup campaign and could offer more from an attacking point of view – certainly, if such a scenario transpires, he could well be the best option from Irvine’s defence.
Certainly, five of West Brom’s first six home fixtures (SUN, EVE, BUR, CPL, NEW) suggest defensive returns could be on the cards, thus strengthening their appeal as cheap rotation options. Wisdom, undoubtedly, has the potential to be a very budget-friendly FPL option for the season ahead, though with a number of ifs and buts still surrounding the Baggies’ likely back-four, Fantasy managers may be best keeping a keen eye on Irvine’s intentions before acquiring the youngster with any degree of conviction.