Boss admits Gera loss provides winger with chance - and says no change to Dorrans position
STEVE Clarke admits Zoltan Gera’s season-ending injury could provide Jerome Thomas with the chance to make a first-team impact.
The 29-year-old winger suffered an injury-hit first half of the season himself but recently returned from a successful loan spell at Championship outfit Leeds.
He made his first appearance of the season for the Baggies as a 45th-minute substitute in last Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup draw at QPR.
And he will be hoping to return to Barclays Premier League action against Reading tomorrow (ko 3pm).
“Jerome Thomas is the one that can cover for Zoltan because we didn’t have Jerome in the first half of the season," said the Baggies boss.
“He was always injured. When he got himself fit and was in the squad, the team was in a great place and he had no prospect of playing matches.
“He went out to Leeds to get match fitness, which he did, and he’s come back to us, and the timing couldn’t be better.
“Jerome slots back into the squad and, unfortunately, Zoltan will drop out.
“It’s a great chance for him. He’ll get chances to play.
“He’ll be in and around the squad and the team and what he has to do is show the form he’s shown in previous seasons because he’s been a good servant for Albion.
“We look forward to some really good performances from him in the second half of the season.”
Clarke has also been quick to confirm Gera’s injury does not alter Graham Dorrans’ position – and the Scotland midfielder will be allowed to leave if a ‘suitable’ offer comes in for him.
“His position is exactly the same,” he added.
“If it’s good for the club and good for Graham to do something in January we will do it.
“If it’s not he will stay for the rest of the season and we will reassess the situation.”
And the Albion chief reported the Hungary ace is in a positive frame of mind despite his injury blow.
“It is terrible luck but Zoltan is a realist, a professional," he said.
“He has been in the game a long time and understands it's part and parcel of the game.
“I'm not saying it's not a serious injury but people have shown they can come back from cruciate ligament injuries and can recover.
“There are a number of players playing who have damaged the same knee twice and still come back and played.
“I don't think it holds any fears for Zoltan and that is the most important thing.
“Zoltan is a very positive person and he is looking forward to pre-season training already.
“I spoke to him this morning and he is in a good place for someone who has got such a bad injury.
“I would expect him to be fit enough to join in pre-season training. That's as far as we can look just now.
“He knows he has got the best wishes of the supporters and everyone at the club.
"And he has shown before he has got a great appetite for work, he is a great professional, and he will come back from this one as well, I'm sure."