STEVE Clarke is pleased to be kicking off his second season at The Hawthorns helm with another home fixture – but is expecting a tough test from big-spending Southampton.
Clarke led the Baggies to a memorable 3-0 victory over former club Liverpool in his first game in charge last August.
And they begin the 2013/14 campaign by hosting a Saints side on August 17 who made an impressive return to the Barclays Premier League by finishing 14th.
Albion completed a fine double over Southampton last season, beating them 2-0 at home in November before winning 3-0 at St Mary’s in April.
Clarke will be looking to extend his 100 per cent record against the South Coast outfit in just over eight weeks’ time but is expecting a tough game against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
“It’s always nice to start the season at home so I’m pleased with that,” said Clarke.
“Every game in the Premier League is a big challenge – there are no easy games – and it won’t be any different this season.
“We took six points off Southampton last season and hopefully that run can continue – but we had to work very hard for those wins.
“Southampton spent big 12 months ago and it looks as though this summer won’t be any different.
“They have already splashed the cash to sign a defender and they’re one of the teams that will be looking to improve on last season and finish above us.”
Next up for the Baggies before the first international break is a trip to Everton, who finished sixth last term, on August 24 ahead of a home date with Swansea seven days later.
“Again, every away game is difficult in the Premier League and Everton will be especially tough as it will be Roberto Martinez’s first home game since replacing David Moyes as manager,” added Clarke.
“But it’s a good challenge and one we will relish when the game comes around.
“Swansea finished one place below us in ninth last season and, along with ourselves, were probably the surprise package. It should be a good football game.”
Clarke made an impressive start to his Albion tenure by steering the club to their best start to a top-flight campaign in 59 years.
It goes without saying that the Baggies head coach would like to kick off 2013/14 in similar fashion but he claims a good start is not the be all and end all.
“It’s always nice to start well but when and where you pick up your points is irrelevant,” he added.
“The most important thing is picking them up."