STEVE Clarke admits the length of Ben Foster’s injury lay-off and Boaz Myhill’s form mean he is no longer guaranteed an instant return to the Albion starting XI when he is fit.
The Baggies No.1 underwent a minor operation on his left groin after the Southampton game on November 5 and hoped to be back in action before the end of last month.
But further discomfort meant he had to undergo surgery on his other groin on Tuesday, with a planned recovery period of a week to ten days.
In the meantime, Clarke has been impressed by Myhill’s contribution in helping his side move up to fourth spot in the table ahead of today's home clash with Stoke (ko 3pm).
“Boaz has been good, really good,” said the Hawthorns boss.
“Ben’s been out a long time now.
“You never know, if he’d been out for one week he would probably have gone straight back in.
“But he’s now been out a number of weeks and we’ll have to see how he is when he comes back.
“Then we’ll make that decision when we have to make it.
“It’s not an easy decision when you have good players and you have to choose between them.”
Clarke also insists no decision over the futures of Jerome Thomas and Chris Wood, who he watched in action at Molineux on Tuesday, will be taken until January when their loan spells finish at Leeds and Millwall respectively.
“I don’t know what will happen here between now and the end of Jerome's loan spell,” he added.
“If I pick up two or three injuries Jerome could come back here.
“It’s the same with Wood at Millwall.
“He did well on Tuesday and he’s still our player.”