STEVE Clarke has apologised to Albion fans for what he described as his team’s worst performance of the season in the 4-0 defeat at Norwich - insisting: “It hurts.”
The Canaries went into the game needing a victory to guarantee Barclays Premier League safety and Robert Snodgrass’ 25th-minute strike gave them a half-time lead.
Clarke made two changes – one enforced - at the break as he brought on Chris Brunt and Billy Jones for Markus Rosenberg and the injured Steven Reid, and switched formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 to match the hosts.
But City remained on top and Grant Holt capitalised on an uncustomary Ben Foster mistake to double the lead on 62.
Three minutes later, Gareth McAuley headed into his own net and Jonny Howson’s last-minute cracker sentenced the Baggies to their heaviest reverse of the campaign in front of 2,400 travelling supporters at Carrow
“It was our worst performance of the season by a considerable margin,” said the Hawthorns boss, whose side remain in eighth place.
“We're going to hurt for a few days.
“I can only apologise to the fans.
“We really appreciate the supporters' efforts. They've come a long way and spent a lot of money getting here.
“We've let them down today.
“We're going to work really hard on the training pitch this week and get back to basics.
“Everyone will hopefully see a different West Bromwich Albion next week."
He added: “You don’t think that’s going to happen to you and your team.
“We’ve been terrific this season – today we were the opposite.
“It’s a blow to us because that’s not a normal performance for West Bromwich Albion.
“We worked the same as we have all season.
“We prepared for the game as we always prepare.
“The performance in midweek against Manchester City was good.
“The performance at home to Wigan was a performance that should have got us something from the game.
“Today, we were nowhere near it.
“It was Norwich’s day, not ours.”
The Baggies boss also held his hands up for his part in the defeat.
“We used a system that has worked quite well for us in recent weeks, but today it didn’t,” he said.
“If I pick a team and the performance is like that, then it has to be my fault.
“Obviously, I misread the game.
“I didn’t think Norwich were capable of causing us so many problems.
“I thought with three front players we could cause them a lot of problems – but we didn’t.
“One of the half-time changes was enforced.
“Steven got a kick in the first half.
“I took him out and put Billy on.
“The second one was just to change the shape of the team.
“I felt we were conceding too much of the game.
“Norwich looked a threat every time they went forward.
“Although we had three forwards on the pitch, we didn’t look a threat going forward.
“We needed to change it.”
Clarke was quick to back his No.1 goalkeeper Foster after his mistake gifted City their second goal.
But he admitted that moment proved pivotal in Chris Hughton’s men taking all three points.
“It’s a mistake and Ben knows it – but he didn’t do it on purpose,” the Albion chief added.
“It was pivotal in the game because at 1-0 you could still feel the nervousness and tension in the stadium.
“At 2-0, it sort of released the pressure on Norwich and they ran away with the game in the end.”