STEVE Clarke has heaped praise on Norwich boss Chris Hughton ahead of this afternoon’s clash at The Hawthorns (ko 3pm) – and revealed they almost joined forces at Newcastle.
Fellow former No.2 Hughton played for Tottenham, West Ham and Brentford, before returning to White Hart Lane as a coach in 1993.
The 54-year-old joined Newcastle as first team coach in 2008 and was installed as the club’s manager following Alan Shearer’s brief spell as gaffer at St James’ Park in 2009.
And Clarke suggested his career mirrors Hughton’s, with both bosses rising to prominence following successful spells as coaches.
“He’s taken a similar route to me in that he’s spent a long time being an assistant coach working with players and waiting for the right chance to come along,” said Clarke.
“Wherever he has been and wherever he has worked as a manager he has done well.
“It’s pleasing when somebody who has done the hard shift gets the chance to do well and I’m pleased for Chris.
“He’s a really good man and I think everybody in football will tell you that if you sit down and have a chat with Chris Hughton he’s a really good man and a good honest person."
He added: “When Chris was at Newcastle we had a little conversation about me maybe going up there to join him.
“It was a really good, honest chat that we had and at the time I was out of the game and not working anywhere, and I appreciated that he had taken the time to call me.
“Newcastle got rid of him a couple of weeks after that conversation and the timing of it all didn’t quite work out.
“He lost his job when maybe he didn’t really deserve to.”
Hughton served a 16-year apprenticeship as a coach before spending 12 months at the St James’ Park helm – while the current Baggies chief worked as a coach and assistant boss at Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool before moving to The Hawthorns.
And Clarke believes there is an increase in the number of clubs willing to appoint experienced and educated coaches over big name candidates.
“We spend a lot of hours working on our coaching badges while we’re working with youth teams, younger players and reserve teams and working our way through," he said.
“I think clubs are now looking at that and thinking these guys are putting in the hours, they’re serving their time and they’re educating themselves properly.
“Maybe they just feel, with the way the game’s going and the success of coaches like Arsene Wenger, who had a similar path, and Jose Mourinho, who is somebody really high profile who progressed as a coach.
“Jose did his time as an assistant, stepped up and did rather well and maybe clubs are looking at the whole education process and they’re making sure they’re not just taking someone who was a good player and putting them into the job.
“Chris and I chose a different path and we looked to educate ourselves a bit more before stepping into the hot seat, and we feel that hopefully we are a little more ready for a challenge rather than going in cold.
“I can see the trend continuing and I know it’s something they look to do in other countries like in Italy, where I know you have to do your coaching badges before you’re allowed to work in the top division.
“It’s similar in Holland and Germany and maybe it’s starting to become more vogue in this country as well.”