Clarke impressing after finally get a shot as number one
Saturday 22 September 2012
He may be the Premier League’s only novice manager, but nobody could question Steve Clarke’s credentials. Assistant manager to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea during a period of unprecedented success for the club, eventually departing to assist Gianfranco Zola at West Ham before a period as Kenny Dalglish’s first team coach at Liverpool. Dismissed after the sacking of Kenny Dalglish, he inherited his first managerial post in the summer, taking over from Roy Hodgson at West Brom after a 14 year coaching career. The ultimate apprenticeship.
Clarke was handed a tricky start to his West Brom career, which he navigated with ease. A 3-0 opening day thrashing of Liverpool was followed by a spirited draw at Spurs and an impressive 2-0 victory against Everton, with seven points representing their best ever start to a Premier League season - a stark contrast to their four losses out of their first five fixtures last season. Clarke has a tough task to maintain the high standards Hodgson brought and has also outlined his intention to make the side more potent offensively, an attribute which has already been evidenced.
West Brom took the game to Spurs at White Hart Lane, were not deterred when the home side took the lead late in the game and were rewarded with a last minute equaliser. In the following game, the introduction of Peter Odemwingie resulted in the opening goal against Everton, as his run and cross was converted by Shane Long. Fellow substitute Chris Brunt supplied the corner for Gareth McAuley to add a second, as bold attacking substitutions have already become a recurring theme. With the likes of Odemwingie, Long, Marc Antoine-Fortune, Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku at his disposal, Clarke is not short of attacking options.
Odemwingie’s dismissal in the subsequent game at Fulham resulted in a 3-0 defeat and an end to West Brom’s unbeaten start. The departure of sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth further compounded the downturn in their recent good fortune. Ashworth has been with the club for eight years and has been a highly-regarded, positive influence behind the scenes. He will join Hodgson at the FA in the summer to undertake the vacant director of elite development role. He will leave a team in rude financial health, recording a £9m profit and listed only £2m of debt in their most recent set of accounts, with one of the lowest wage bills in the league.
As an established, mid-table Premier League side, West Brom have moved on from their former status as a perennial yo-yo club and can instead focus on finally breaking the 50-point barrier. With a talented squad containing the likes of James Morrison, Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob, some of the most underrated players in the league, the hope is that Clarke, a respected, hands-on coach can make a seamless transition to management. He will have designs on a return to winning ways when newly-promoted Reading visit The Hawthorns on Saturday.
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