Hodgson: Vela can make the difference

The influence of Arsenal loanee Carlos Vela could be paramount in West Bromwich Albion’s battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League, according to Baggies manager Roy Hodgson.

The Mexican international has proved a worthwhile addition to the West Brom squad since arriving from Emirates Stadium, as he has twice rescued them from the doldrums by scoring significant equalising goals against Wolves and Stoke respectively.

Hodgson, who replaced Roberto Di Matteo at the Hawthorns, is hoping that Vela can push on and continue to salvage valuable points for the Midlands club - starting against local rivals Birmingham City at the weekend.

"He's [Vela] taken his chances enormously well, I gave him a late chance against Wolves and he popped up with a very important injury time equaliser," he told talkSPORT.

"He played the other night for 15 minutes and scored a goal and had two goal chances, he's certainly showing that he knows where the goal is and he's a good player to have around.

"He can't play against Arsenal because of the loan agreement [he can't play against his parent club] so I don't think we'll see a lot of him for the month of March.

"I think everything, including relegation will be decided from late April through to the final game in May and it would be great to have him firing on all cylinders then."

Vela, who first signed for Arsenal in 2005, has scored nine goals in 33 appearances for his native country Mexico.

However, he is currently banned from the national side for six months due to allegations that he threw a party for his international team-mates following their 1-0 win over Columbia in September.

By Elliott Binks