05:00 17th May 2013
But boss believes he'll be better next season as he prepares to face Fergie
STEVE Clarke heads into the final game of his first season as a head coach on Sunday (ko 4pm) believing he will be a better No.1 next term.
After a blistering first half of the campaign, in which his team amassed 33 points, the Baggies have struggled to rediscover that form.
Clarke admits 2013 has been a rude awakening, with a host of problems to contend with since the turn of the year.
And his eighth-placed team head into Sunday’s final-day showdown with Manchester United looking to bounce back from three successive defeats.
“It’s been a great challenge,” said Clarke.
“In the first half of the season I thought it was the easiest job in the world.
“I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about!
“In the second half of the season I had a rude awakening.
“I had different problems, different things to consider and I think next season I’ll be a better head coach.
“I’ve learned a lot this year and I’ll try and improve next year.
“The second half of the season was more like I expected.
“There were lots of problems.
“There was the transfer window to deal with, a lack of quality in the squad when the squad was stretched to the maximum over November, December and January.
“We played the second half of the season with a lot more tired bodies.
“Going out of the cup competitions early I think affected us, especially going out of the FA Cup, because I think we had too many free weekends.
“Between the FA Cup and international breaks we had too many gaps in our season and we struggled to maintain a rhythm
“That’s something we’ll have to look at next season.
“There are many different things I have learned over this season that hopefully I can put into practice next season.
“It’s not just a matter of bringing in players.
“If it was just a matter of bringing in players everyone would be first.
“It’s about making sure what you’ve got is strong and good, and trying to improve it a little bit.
“It’s not just about going out and getting six or seven players – that won’t solve anything.”
This weekend’s Hawthorns encounter will pit Clarke against the most successful manager in the British game on the day of his retirement from the United hotseat.
And the Albion chief is full of admiration for what Sir Alex Ferguson has achieved in almost 38 years as a boss at St Mirren, Aberdeen and the Red Devils.
“He did all the hard work in Scotland,” the Baggies chief added.
“He started at my club St Mirren.
“He set up a great little foundation for St Mirren to build on.
“The players he brought into that club carried them into European competition for a number of years.
“He set up a good base there and went to Aberdeen and broke the Old Firm monopoly.
“He came down to England for another challenge and struggled for three years.
“But he got the time to build - because in those days you got the time to build - and what he’s done is build a dynasty.
“He’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world and they've gone from strength to strength.
“Every year they have always been challenging for honours, so he’s done a fantastic job.”