Steve Clarke: creating a new West Brom template
By Graham Hill
West Bromwhich Albion manger Steve Clarke may be in his first managerial job but he is in no mood for an extended honeymoon period at The Hawthorns. Clarke has worked with winners - Jose Mourinho, Kenny Dalglish, Bobby Robson - and now he wants to be one in his own right.
The former Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham and Newcastle assistant manager is now looking to gain a reputation as a manager in his own right. And the style of football he is asking his Albion team to play is fast winning admirers. But Clarke is not interested in compliments - just points.
And he will not hesitate to shelve the Baggies’s reputation as an entertaining team at the expense of losing early season momentum. Clarke took Albion into the top six, but defeats by Manchester City and Newcastle have held up their surprise charge. And now Clarke knows he needs to become ruthless if the Baggies are not to slide back down the table.
Clarke is desperate not to be seen as a No.2 who could not handle the responsibility of management. And he also wants to repay West Brom for giving him the chance to prove himself. Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Albion have played the best football in the Premier League this season.
He hailed Clarke’s Baggies before beating them at The Hawthorns. And it was praise that left a bad taste in Clarke’s mouth after losing his 100 per cent home record.
The Albion manager admitted: “It was a nice compliment from Roberto, but I think there might have been different motives in there. If we can continue to play good football and get results then that’s great - some weeks there’ll be periods when you have to be ugly. But I think we can do that too.
“If you play fantastic football and get beaten, it’s no good, you have to win matches. That’s the bottom line. When Tony Mowbray was here I know they liked to pass the ball from the back. And they were quite cavalier under Roberto di Matteo. But they were a little bit different again under Roy Hodgson.
“I came in last summer without a template. But the basic principles are, can we play attractive football? Can we entertain the public? When the supporters go away from the stadium I want them to be talking about the game, this chance and that chance. Last weekend they probably all went home pig sick. But they’d be talking about all the chances they saw and the incidents. The good things. Football is an entertainment business and I have to try and entertain.
“But I have to separate the entertainment from the fact that if I don’t get positive results then I’m not doing my job. We have to win as well - and win enough. Last week we entertained and got beaten by City, so I would rather not entertain so much and win. If we end up in a position similar to Newcastle at the end of the season and we’re chasing European football, then that’s fantastic. We can’t look that far ahead because if you do that, you fall over. But over the years Everton did it. There’s always a club that will come along and challenge.”
Clarke admits that it was Sir Bobby Robson who was his early mentor. He added: “I learned a lot from Bobby. I was lucky to work with him for a year. I took a lot from the way Bobby managed the players and dealt with them. He was great to me as well, he knew I was a young coach and I wanted to learn. Bobby took me in on some of the meetings with players where he was having a one to one. It was just to watch and observe and see how he would deal with players.
“It was absolutely invaluable for me. His secret was in his manner and how he got the best out of players. There are a number of ways of doing that; he seemed to have the gift of knowing what motivational tool he had to use at any one time.”