Why the arrival of Ali Al-Habsi should be a big boost for West Brom
According to the Express & Star, West Brom have completed the signing of veteran goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi on a free transfer from Saudi club Al-Hilal, with the 37-year-old putting pen to paper on a deal at the Hawthorns until the end of the season.
The former Premier League shot-stopper was looking to end his illustrious career in a spectacular fashion and a return to English football with the Baggies might just provide him with a chance to play a part in the club’s promotion push in what could be one last hurrah for the Oman international. (h/t Express & Star)
Al-Habsi, who is apparently delighted after completing a move to the West Midlands outfit in the twilight of his career, has made it clear that getting West Brom promoted back to the Premier League would be the ideal way for him to bring the curtains down on his time in professional football. (h/t Express & Star)
The 37-year-old rose to prominence with Al-Mudhaibi and Al Nassr in his homeland and featured for Norwegian side Lyn Oslo before making his move to English football with Bolton Wanderers in 2006.
Al-Habsi was mostly a peripheral figure at Bolton and played as an understudy to Jussi Jaaskelainen before getting an opportunity to prove his worth as a bonafide shot-stopper at Wigan Athletic in the Premier League.
The veteran, who has been capped by Oman on 126 occasions, made a total of 154 appearances for the Latics in all competitions, winning the 2012-13 FA Cup in the process.
Following his release from Wigan, Al-Habsi signed for Championship side Reading in 2015 and won the Player of the Season award in the 2016-17 season, playing a key role as the Berkshire outfit made it all the way through to the promotion playoffs.
To put things into perspective, Ali Al-Habsi might well be past his prime years as a goalkeeper but his arrival still comes as a piece of welcome news to the West Brom fans, who will be hoping that the club can make it back to the Premier League at the second time of asking under the stewardship of Slaven Bilic.
The Baggies, though still unbeaten in the opening month of the Championship, are yet to hit top gear in the league, having won only two of their first five fixtures.
Bilic brought in as many as nine new faces before the deadline to bolster his squad and Al-Habsi, who has become the tenth new face in the club’s senior ranks this summer, could prove to be a positive influence on the squad, both on and off the pitch.
Indeed, the 37-year-old’s wealth of Premier League and Championship experience, as well as his know-how and understanding of the English game, could come in handy for the Baggies in their surge for promotion.
Given his advancing years, it remains to be seen whether he still has anything to offer for a promotion-chasing team on the pitch, but the fans will be expecting to see a glimpse of him between the sticks at some point in the campaign.
The 37-year-old has apparently been brought in to provide cover and competition for the likes of Sam Johnstone and Jonathan Bond and, while it means that he could only make up the numbers in the squad, the veteran might still have what it takes to challenge for a more significant role.
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Nevertheless, his mere presence on the training ground is likely to boost the performance levels of the other players and Slaven Bilic should look forward to working with him over the course of the season.