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Wednesday 21 May 2014

Rising academy star O'Neil agrees new contract with West Brom

Homegrown 20-year-old talent earns new deal after impressing in Barclays U21 Premier League

Liam O'Neil has been a key figure in West Brom's Barclays U21 Premier League team

West Bromwich Albion academy product Liam O'Neil will be rewarded for his progress to their first-team plans with a new contract this summer, the club have announced.

"Yet again, credit must go to our academy staff for bringing him through the ranks successfully"
Richard Garlick, West Brom

The 20-year-old midfielder, who can also play in defence, will sign a new one-year deal, plus a further year's option in the club's favour, on 1 July.

O'Neil has been a key member of West Brom's Barclays Under-21 Premier League team this season, and his performances caught the eye of former head coach Pepe Mel, who handed him his Barclays Premier League debut and a further two substitute appearances at the tail end of the 2013/14 campaign.

"We are delighted to hand Liam a new deal," Albion's director of football administration Richard Garlick told West Brom's website. "He made a significant leap forward during the second half of last season and showed great maturity. Yet again, credit must go to our academy staff for bringing him through the ranks successfully.

"The final few months of the campaign were an invaluable experience for Liam in his footballing education. The test for him now is to see if he can flourish in and around the first-team squad next season."

O'Neil is the latest academy player to break into the Baggies' first team, following striker Saido Berahino's rapid rise from the Barclays U21 Premier League to a regular place in the senior side. England Under-21 international Berahino made 32 appearances in the Barclays Premier League this season, netting five goals.

Speaking to premierleague.com earlier in the season, O'Neil gained inspiration from Berahino's success and highlighted his desire to follow in his footsteps.

"It's always great to see one of the young lads come through and getting in and around the team and for him, doing so well," he said. "It shows that it can be done and there are opportunities at the club.

"The Premier League is one of the strongest in the world, so for Saido to do that shows that it can be done and you've got to just keep working hard."

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Key Points

  • West Bromwich Albion academy product Liam O'Neil agrees a new contract
  • The 20-year-old will sign a new one-year deal, with the option of a second year, on 1 July
  • The midfielder made his Barclays Premier League debut this season after impressing at U21 level