We’re delighted to welcome former West Brom striker Kevin Phillips as our exclusive columnist. Each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at The Hawthorns…

Kevin Phillips has done a U-turn on Ainsley Maitland-Niles, claiming the midfielder has proven himself to be effective in the West Brom midfield.

Maitland-Niles, 23, joined Albion on loan from Arsenal in January after being promised plenty of game-time playing in his preferred central midfield role.

In February, ex-Baggies striker Phillips told West Brom News he thought Maitland-Niles had looked “lost” in Sam Allardyce’s midfield.

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However, after a barnstorming performance in the 3-0 win against Southampton on Monday night, Phillips has changed his tune.

“In the beginning, when he first came, I didn’t think he was very effective in that area but he hadn’t played for a while,” Phillips told West Brom News.

“Now he’s getting a run of games it just shows that if you stick with them, they do improve.

“He’s a good player. You don’t play for Arsenal unless you’re a good player.

“West Brom are slightly better after sticking with him and being consistent and the player himself is stepping up.

“For him, on a personal note, he’s doing exactly what he wanted. He wanted to come to West Brom because he knew he would play week in, week out.

“For everyone concerned, it was a good decision to bring him and stick him in that midfield area.

“He’s definitely looking like a more accomplished midfielder.”

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Maitland-Niles had what was arguably his best performance for West Brom at The Hawthorns on Monday as they swept aside Southampton.

He was named as Sky Sports’ man of the match with ex-Albion striker Don Goodman saying: “He’s stretched that Southampton defence by making runs in behind and then he has got back, made tackles, kept the ball and ticked every box for me.”

According to stats by Wyscout, Maitland-Niles completed just 70 per cent of his passes. However, the Arsenal loanee managed one key pass and completed five passes to team-mates inside the penalty area.

He also completed five of eight dribbles, completed the one cross he attempted and set up one shot.

It was a great night for the previously criticised loan ace.

In other West Brom news, Keith Hackett wants a key official sacked after the controversy in the win against Southampton.

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