Gaffer issues rallying cry as duo walk suspension tightrope
STEVE Clarke has called on his entire Barclays Premier League squad to be ready for action over the festive period with suspensions and injuries expected to kick in.
December is set to be the Baggies’ busiest month of the season with six league fixtures scheduled in 31 days.
And Albion’s head coach insists he will also continue to share the workload of his players through rest and substitutions.
“This is when the squad will be tested,” said Clarke.
“They will all be asked to step forward and make their contribution, that up until now, they have all made.
“Every time they’ve been asked to come in they have done really well for us.
“We have got a good squad with good depth and over the coming weeks it will be used and tested to the maximum.
“Almost all the players, with the exception of El Ghanassy, Craig Dawson and Gonzo, have played at least 30 per cent of the time on the pitch.
“There is a group that have played a third of the playing time or upwards and we’re in good shape in terms of where we are fitness-wise and availability and having people ready to play.”
“As the season goes on you’ll see that injuries will come along, as by and large, that’s what happens during a season.”
“As we get to the latter stages of the season, hopefully we’ll have players who are really fresh and they can keep the momentum going – that is the key of having a good squad.
Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob currently have four bookings each and must reach the New Year without receiving another caution in order to avoid suspension.
Clarke quipped: “Let’s be honest, there’s no way in the world Youssouf is going to get through the next five games without getting booked.
“Goodness knows how the central-midfield pairing haven’t been booked in the last few games.
“They’ve both been on four bookings for four games.
“We’ve been anxious about one of them being booked for quite a while now.”
And the Baggies gaffer is pleased with the spirit of his players following defeats by Swansea and Stoke.
“I think the spirit at the club should be high at the moment and I said that to the players after the game on Saturday.
“We were disappointed to lose but all I said was that they should be pleased with their efforts given where we are in the league.
“If at this stage in the season you’d have said that we’d have 26 points and we’d be level on points with Chelsea and Tottenham, towards the top of the league, they would have grabbed that.
“I’ve tried to tell the players that we’re not in a bad place and we have to remain positive.
“In football you can lose games and we could lose the next game but we’re still not in a bad position.
“There’s no way we can allow negative thoughts to come into our heads.
“If I’d have said to you at the start of last week that we’d go to Sunderland and draw, Swansea and draw and then had a scrappy draw with Stoke you would have said that’s not too bad.
“We took three points from last week so that could have been three draws.
“My philosophy is to try and win games but if those games had been three draws everyone would have been impressed.
“That’s the way you have to look at it.”