STEVE Clarke is hoping tomorrow’s clash with Stoke (ko 3pm) delivers more than last season’s ‘awful’ meetings between the two sides.
The Baggies lost 1-0 to the Potters at The Hawthorns and fought out a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium – both cagey affairs and games to forget.
But Albion will arrive in the Potteries this weekend in impressive form and, with new City boss Mark Hughes adapting the way the hosts play, Clarke is expecting a more open game.
“Stoke have been like ourselves; a little bit inconsistent with some good performances and some not so good,” said the Albion chief.
“I think it’s been well documented that Mark’s been trying to change a little bit the way they play.
“Basically their characteristics and strengths are the ones they had last season.
“We go there and expect a really difficult game.
“I'm sure Mark has been working hard with his squad and we go there expecting a really hard game.
“I can see some changes, especially in trying to change from the back, but I can also see some characteristics from last season.
“They are still solid defensively.
“It's wrong to stereotype them and say they lumped it.
“They had a way of playing under Tony that was very effective and got them good results.
“And the players that are still there from Tony's time will still feel comfortable playing that way.
“All Mark is trying to do is get them playing from the back on the ground.
“Both games last season were awful, absolutely dreadful.
“We're going to go there in a positive frame of mind to play our football and try and win the game.
“If Stoke set up to win it, it could be a great game.
“We go with positive intentions to try to get three points.”
The Britannia Stadium will see Clarke go head to head with his former Chelsea team-mate on the touchline.
And the Baggies head coach is delighted to see his old pal back in a job.
“You are always pleased when you’re friends or people you know get a chance to work,” he added.
“But I was also disappointed that Tony [Pulis] lost the job because Tony’s a good friend as well – I’ve got a lot of time for Tony.
“That’s the nature of the business.
“One friend loses a job and someone else comes in.
“It’s just the way the business is.
“But it’s good for Mark he's got another chance to show what he can do in the Premier League.”