The West Bromwich Albion star played under Aston Villa’s manager at Brentford.

Ian Holloway has joked that West Bromwich Albion ‘would have stopped Aston Villa signing’ Romaine Sawyers in the summer transfer window.

The West Brom academy product returned to The Hawthorns from Brentford for a reported fee of just £2.9 million.

And Sawyers has proved something of a bargain, acting as the playmaking hub of a Baggies side that will return to the Championship summit with a win against Preston North End later on Monday.

In an interview with Sky Sports ahead of the game, the West Brom manager, Slaven Bilic, said to Holloway regarding the 28-year-old: “When I was at West Ham I watched the Championship. Of course, we all watch (the) Championship, you can’t ignore, you don’t ignore football, not to mention Championship, but you are not totally into it.

“But (in the) transfer window, we watch some players from the league and Brentford. Who is this guy? Then my assistant goes: who is this guy? Sawyers? (He’s a) West Brom guy, he’s from here, you know? For him to be that many years there, it’s a sin.

“I know, I know (that he was also at Walsall). So I am saying, like why I say that I will never be happy with him? Of course, I am happy with him, the way he plays and all that, but he can be, he can be … (lifts arm aloft).”

Holloway then said: “Well, you did well, you’d have stopped Aston Villa signing him, because Dean Smith (the Villans’ former Walsall and Brentford manager) knew him.”

And Bilic replied: “Yes, yes, yes, but top, top, top player, top player that you have to push to be even better because his potential, his potential is unbelievable.”

Sawyers was a target for Smith’s Aston Villa at the start of the year, according to Sky Sports.

The broadcaster claimed the 48-year-old was keen to reunite with his former midfielder, as well as the then Brentford centre-back Yoann Barbet, at Aston Villa.

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