West Bromwich Albion head coach Steve Clarke is considering handing youngster Isaiah Brown his first taste of senior football before the end of the season in an attempt to ward off interest from Chelsea and Arsenal, who are both considering tabling offers.
The 16-year-old striker has caught the eye of the two London clubs, with both having sent scouts to Albion’s Under-21 games over recent weeks.
Arsene Wenger has been given glowing reports by Arsenal’s head of development and former Albion coach Terry Burton, but Chelsea are ready to jump to the head of the queue after watching him in action during his last five games for the Under-21 side.
Clarke is acutely aware of the growing interest and the potential struggle to keep hold of the England Under-17 international, but insists he is not for sale.
Brown is currently on a two-year scholarship and Albion hope to persuade him to sign professional forms when he turns 17 next year.
Clarke has included the youngster in his senior squad on two occasions this season, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and against Arsenal for last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat, and Brown could make a senior appearance before the season ends.
“We are always looking to do better and I have told the players that I will have a little look at one or two different things. I don’t want to become predictable and samey. There will be a chance for other players between now and the end of the season,” Clarke said.
“The way the game evolved against Arsenal was not the type of game to bring him in. Don’t forget he is not even 16-and-a half-yet. He is a very young 16 and is just out of nappies to be honest.
“But it’s good to keep him involved and I will look to do that. He trained last week and he was excellent and deserved his spot on the bench. It’s a great experience for him and he’ll enjoy days like that.”
Clarke also admitted he will be starting more intensive discussions with technical director Richard Garlick over the next few weeks to further outline plans for next season and the summer transfer window.
“Next season is always in your thoughts and you’re always looking, watching games and players and thinking ‘it would be good if we could get him’. You are always looking at your team and seeing how and where you can improve it,” Clarke said.
“I spend a lot of time watching over games and we are thinking about next season but we are not going to be distracted by it. It’s important we don’t forget this season is not over yet.”