KEITH Downing has hailed the impact of Steve Clarke after he was named Barclays Manager of the Month yesterday.
The head coach guided his side to four successive victories, and just one defeat, during November as Albion made their best start to a top-flight season since 1953/54.
Joint-assistant head coach Downing believes Clarke’s progression into management has been especially impressive given the pressure that came with succeeding now-England manager Roy Hodgson.
“The difficulty for Steve coming in was always going to be following Roy,” he said.
“I’ve worked with both men and the biggest compliment I can give to Steve is that the transitional period was seamless.
“He had the intelligence to stick to the things we do well and adapt things slightly to his personality.
“The players and coaching staff respect him. He’s diligent and meticulous.
“He has an eye for detail and explains things to the players very well.
“He’s done a great job and, although people in the media questioned his ability and experience to become a No. 1, he has dealt with all of that and has kept perspective regardless of whether things have gone well or badly.
“He doesn’t get too carried away now on the back of three defeats and he was also level-headed after four victories.
“He is a deep thinker and his personality is quiet - but when he speaks he is respected and listened to.
“A lot of his work, through being so organised, is making sure things go smoothly.
“The players enjoy his training sessions and he has all the skills you need to be a head coach/manager.
“The biggest thing about being in charge is that you are accountable on a matchday.
"I’ve done the job and I know that it’s easy for a coach or a journalist to say 'you should have done this, that, or the other'.
“No-one knows unless they’ve been sat in the seat what it feels like to be accountable - you are the one with the big decision to make.
“I think he’s made that transition really well."
Downing has also been impressed by Clarke's man-management skills.
“He has utilised the squad really well," he added.
"He’s been scrutinised over the past three games but when we had four straight victories he was doing exactly the same things.
“If you look at the big picture of 16 games played and 26 points on the board, he has been making the right decisions.
“The beauty of this squad is the fact everybody is on a very even playing field. It’s not like there is a best XI and then the next ten.
“There are a good 20 players and Steve is keeping them motivated and keen. They are all capable of making an impact.
"For us, it’s all about the long-term picture. You should not be distracted from that.
“It’s easy to be distracted by results but we try to keep out of that and focus on the bigger picture.”