West Bromwich Albion have a long tradition of heroic centre-forwards. The legendary figures of Jeff Astle, Cyrille Regis, Bob Taylor and Kevin Phillips all lit up the Hawthorns with their incredible goal scoring talents.
In the Premier League era, the search to find goal scorers is a difficult and rather expensive one. Proven top-flight forwards are hard to come by, which means clubs – West Brom included – have to take a gamble on unwanted or unproven players in the hope that they find someone half as prolific as Regis or Astle.
As you’d expect, it doesn’t always work out well. The likes of Nwankwo Kanu, Nathan Ellington, Markus Rosenburg Victor Anichebe, Brown Ideye and Rickie Lambert can be filed in the underwhelming or regrettable section.
Last summer, West Brom took another chance shelling out a record transfer fee for a Venezuelan forward from the Russian league.But after netting nine league goals in his debut season, Salomon Rondon has already proved himself to be anything but an expensive flop.
Now into the second campaign of his Albion career, Rondon is thriving and beginning to stake a claim as Albion’s best striker of the Premier League era.
Rondon has all the attributes to make him the perfect fit West Brom’s current side. He is well-built, robust, hard-working, fantastic in the air and a clinical finisher. On his day, the powerful 27-year-old can be a real nuisance for top-flight defenders, even when his supply is limited or lacking in quality.
But for all the aforementioned failed strikers, Rondon does still have stiff competition for the claim of West Brom’s best Premier League forward.
Peter Odemwingie, who also joined the Baggies from Russian football, managed 15 league goals in his first season at the club. The Nigerian played in more attacking Albion sides than the current one, but his incredible instincts in front of goal would have made him a threat in any side.
Saido Berahino has a similar knack for finding the back of the net, and was beginning to stake a claim with an excellent start to his West Brom career, almost single-handily firing Albion to safety in the 2014/5 season.
But like Odemwingie, issues off the field have cast a shadow over his natural goal scoring talent. Fortunately, attitude doesn’t appear to be a problem for Rondon; whose old-school, industrious and humble approach to the game makes him an endearing figure reminiscent of Hawthorns’ favourite Geoff Horsfield.
Undoubtedly, the most talented forward West Brom have had on their books during the Premier League era is Romelu Lukaku. The Chelsea loanee bagged 17 league goals to help Albion reach a record high finish of 8th place.
Lukaku showed the signs of a world-class striker with his remarkable power, pace and lethal end product. His presence was so important to Steve Clarke’s side that Odemwingie was unwillingly shunted out wide.
Tellingly, once Lukaku returned to Chelsea, Clarke’s time in charge began to unravel and a goal-shy Albion would struggle at the bottom end of the league.
It may be hard to match the raw quality of Lukaku, but the brevity of his West Brom stay does limit his legacy. Entering his prime, Rondon has the time and ability to set his own record as the club’s leading Premier League scorer. Following the disappointing demises of Odemwingie and Berahino, a long and controversy-free stay would see Rondon become a real modern-day Hawthorns favourite.
And if he continues in this current vein, there is a clear path for the Venezuelan to cement his place among West Brom’s greatest strikers.