Daryl Dike desperate to graduate with West Brom to the Premier League to add to his first class honours rollcall

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DARYL DIKE hopes to graduate from this season with two more first-class honours.

The first is to represent the USA at this winter’s World Cup and the second to finish the campaign as a Premier League striker.

West Brom ace Dike, 22, graduated with a first-class honours degree in finance this summer at the Southern New Hampshire University.

And now his focus is on football honours. The USA are competing in Qatar in a group including England, Wales and Iran — while the Baggies are chasing top-flight football.

Dike heralds from Oklahoma and has three goals from eight internationals.

And he told SunSport: “As I kid I had two dreams — to play in the Premier League and compete in the World Cup.

“Hopefully I’ll be doing one this year and then next year the other.

“It’ll also be exciting to play a team like England at a World Cup so that’s one game we’re looking forward to.

“I’d love to come back from Qatar and be able to make a few jokes and banter with everyone here!”

Dike fulfilled a promise he made to his family by completing his degree after pulling out of university to chase his football dream.

He said: “Before I got drafted to Orlando City, I was in the University of Virginia and the MLS has a programme for players who leave school early to help fund college.

“So I told my parents I’d continue my education while I was playing.

“Every day I was doing my classes online and this summer I completed it.

“The hardest part was keeping on top of it as I had to do it in my own time.

“Football has also been huge for me but the importance of education has always been ingrained into me and my siblings.”

Dike hopes to eventually get into “green finance” as he sensibly plans for life outside football because “I clearly cannot play until I’m 75.”

And the striker believes all footballers should get another string to their bows.

He said: “I always knew what I wanted to do. I’ve always been a numbers guy so it figured I should do something that involves that.

“A lot of players have more time than you think so it’s good if you can think about giving yourself something else to rely on because you can’t be kicking a ball forever.”

West Brom will be relying on Dike to score the goals that help them win promotion but he has endured a frustrating start to his Hawthorns career.

Dike has only managed 84 minutes of competitive action since signing from Orlando City in January.

He picked up a hamstring injury that curtailed his season against Peterborough in his second appearance. 

Former boss Valerien Ismael — also Dike’s manager during his loan spell at Barnsley two years ago —was sacked by the Baggies in February as the team floundered. 

Dike said: “Valerien was a good manager and different from my previous ones. His playing style was direct and it was demanding on workrate.

“And that’s where he helped me most — the mental side of things, to have that fighting mentality to go every game from minute one to minute 90 and be pressing physically.

“It was frustrating I was on the sidelines and couldn’t help the team but it only fuelled my hunger and desire for this season.”

Dike has enjoyed working under Steve Bruce this summer and believes his man-management skills are second to none.

He said: “I’ve never been at a club where they’ve changed managers like that and you can have doubts at that point.

“It’s not that you think you can’t adapt to a new manager but you get little doubts because ultimately you want him to like you.

“But also you think, ‘This is a top manager, this is a manager who has done so much in English football and been around the game a long time.’

“Then you’re excited you might get an opportunity to play under him because you realise this is a man who had a great playing career and achieved so much.

“He’s a great man-manager. He and his staff have done a good job in personalising stuff for each individual and they realise each and every player isn’t going to just fall into a system.

“They’ll see you’re good at some things but maybe not so good at others and give you tips to work on your strengths and weaknesses as well as how you can fit into the system and get the best out of yourself. That’s something Steve Bruce has done a good job at.”

The Baggies are among the favourites to get promoted after an underwhelming season last time round, which saw them finish tenth and eight points behind the play-off spots.

Considering West Brom were alongside Fulham as favourites to go straight back up, it was an awful campaign.

They had the best Championship defence, only conceding 35 goals, but scored only 52.

On paper, their attack is one of the best with Dike, Jed Wallace, Karlan Grant, Grady Diangana, Matt Phillips and Jonathan Swift.

And Dike said: “No matter who plays, it’s a great group. Everyone offers something different — craftiness, goalscoring, lots of other things. We’ve so many options and you need that in a Championship season where you’re playing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday all year.”

Dike, during pre-season, has struck up a good understanding with Wallace, who was signed this summer from Millwall.

And the striker said: “I’ve never seen someone run as much as he does. He just runs, runs and runs. He’s always pressing and doing everything. He also crosses the ball well and he’s a good passer of the ball.

“Anything in front of me, it makes it very easy and he gets on the ball, is good with the pass and can score as well.”

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