The Bulls’ latest loanee, Modou Lamin Faal, adds to the multicultural flavour at Hereford FC. He was born in Gambia and moved with his parents to the UK when he was just 7. His first club was Football Futures, a Birmingham FA project based at Great Barr when he was 13, and since then, he’s played in junior football including a season with Sutton Coldfield’s Town U16, trying to avoid injury on their pitch.

Local super scout Steve Hopcroft took him to the Hawthorns where he signed as a scholar as a 16-year-old. He’s now just 19 and mainly plays in the grandly titled Premier League 2 – basically Academy Leagues. His scoring record looks decent with 9 goals in 15, but this in a league where the opposition can vary from rising superstars to naïve 17-year-old debutants – I just wouldn’t use that too highly as a benchmark. More significantly, Faal was part of the Albion Youth team which reached the FA Youth Cup Semi-Final last season.

Faal is down the pecking order of WBA youth strikers – probably fourth choice for any rare first team minutes. Partly because the others are older, but also because he’s been completely outshone by Reyes Cleary from the year below. Cleary is built like a pocket battleship, scores a lot of goals and has queue-jumped ahead of Modou.

Still, the Gambian signed a pro contract last July buoyed by a positive report from his boss. “Mo’s a physical presence, links the game up well, scores goals and is an aerial threat” said U18’s boss Peter Gilbert to the official WBA club website.

Yes, young Faal did come on in the second half in the League Cup against Arsenal. If I add he was the 9th home player to make his debut in that fixture, that gives you some idea of the line-up. Albion basically threw the game. Faal had to come on, a forced change when the solitary first teamer striker Zohore was injured. He ran around as best he could with other young forwards while a near full strength Arsenal kept racking up the goals. They stopped at six. Since then, he missed seven weeks of the season with an ankle injury giving other young strikers a chance to shine instead.

It’s claimed that Modou was the first scholar in West Brom history to play for their U-23’s. That’s impressive though hard to verify. But whichever level, he is at, Mo needs proper football to learn the game and demonstrate his talents. And this is his chance.

On his Hereford debut coming off the bench against York, Faal was initially repeatedly beaten in the air by a determined City defence. But adapted quickly. The reality of first team football when the next contract ensures the mortgage continues to be paid is always a shock to the system of any Academy player. Happily, although he attracted the referees attention, he did manage to stay on the pitch unlike his Albion predecessor Dara O’Shea, who was dismissed on his Hereford debut.

In another promising performance it was great to watch Mo scoring his first goal for Hereford in the HFA County Cup semi-final against Pegasus. I’m sure he’ll claim it despite the deflection!

Also good to see that Josh Gowlings regular visits to see various WBA teams in action this season have paid off. “Hereford’s manager was here again” as I was very fairly regularly tipped off. Sometimes Josh is mentioned just as “I saw the big guy with the hair.” Sometimes you can’t miss our Gaffer on a scouting mission.

WBA have an arrangement with Telford United who are supposed to get first pick of academy talents needing proper football. Yet the Shropshire side have taken precious little advantage of this deal so their loss really. Given that Hereford train in the same street as WBA, it’s all rather convenient. And yes, oh dear Josh there is an agent. Mo is represented by Ousman Manneh.

By Editor

Lifelong Hereford supporter who has endured the rise and fall of the club through progressive generations. Sports journalist, broadcaster and commentator who will never forget his Edgar Street roots.

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