Yves Bissouma has admitted he needed to improve quickly to adapt to the challenges of English football.
The 25-year-old joined Albion in 2018 from Lille and made his 100th appearance for the club in the 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday.
“I am very proud and happy. It’s been a long time of working hard,” Bissouma said. “It’s down to everyone at the club, I want to say thanks to those people and to the club, it’s amazing to be a part of the best league in the world.
“When I came here I was 21 and now I am 25, so I have matured as a person and in my game. I learned a lot of things in those early years.”
The Mali international was caught out by the intensity and physicality of Premier League football early in his Albion career.
“When I came to England I thought it was going to be like playing in France, but it’s not the same – the intensity is on a different level.
“In my second game we played against Liverpool, I received a pass, I controlled it and wanted to turn, but [James] Milner tackled me and Firmino played Salah through, he scored and we lost 1-0!
“After that, I said ‘Biss, you have to work hard! You have to change your game and adapt’, that’s what I have worked on. I am a lot better than when I started here. I know what I can do – a lot has changed.”
Bissouma has gone from strength to strength since then, and he has been part of some special Albion moments.
“The first memory that comes into my head is when I scored my first goal [against Bournemouth in the FA Cup].
“Then there was the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, that was a special day. I’ve got a lot of special memories."
His goal against the Cherries would set the tone for his goalscoring exploits, as he gained a reputation for outrageous strikes from long range.
“I don’t know why they’re so good, maybe it’s God! When I scored against Blackpool [in the FA Cup in January], at half-time the goalkeeper came to me and said ‘your shot was amazing!’ Three of the Blackpool players came up to me at the end and said ‘bro, how do you score like that?’ Things like that give me confidence to score good goals.”
Albion supporters have also witnessed a number of different haircuts modelled by the midfielder, but he insists what he has now is the best look.
“This is the best one, I like dreadlocks – it’s the same colour as the away kit, it was on purpose!”