Club News

Clarke delight after 'crucial' tour

Head coach brands Copenhagen win as perfect way to round off pre-season trip

STEVE Clarke branded last night’s 3-0 victory at Copenhagen as the perfect way to round off an ‘absolutely crucial’ pre-season tour.

Steven Reid set the Baggies on the way to the first victory of new head coach Clarke’s reign with a superb 15th-minute free-kick.

A Shane Long penalty, which he also won, in the 89th minute and a deflected strike from fellow sub Gabriel Tamas even later put a gloss on what was still a satisfying night for the tourists.

It brought to an end in fine style Albion’s eight-day stay in Scandinavia, which has given Clarke an ideal opportunity to get to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses.

“For me, this tour has been absolutely crucial,” he reflected.

“I’ve got to know the players a bit more personally, they’ve got to know me, and I’ve also got to know my staff, so it’s been a really good trip.

“Winning at Copenhagen, a difficult place to go, was a nice way to round things off.

“You could see they were a good team.

“They play Champions League football pretty much every year, have got a lot of good players and the hospitality for the game was great, as it has been at Malmo and our hotel in Sweden for the past week.”

Clarke was pleased to get his first-ever win as a No.1 under his belt but claimed there was still plenty of room for improvement – particularly when his players are in possession.

“If we’d have lost the game, I’d be standing here saying ‘the result is not important, that it’s about fitness, working as a team and getting to know the players a little bit more’,” he said.

“So, although the result is pleasing, it’s not the most important part of the night.

“The effort and work-rate was good and the boys looked a little bit fitter and sharper.

“We started slowly, like we did against Malmo last week, and felt our way into the game, which is a sign of heavy legs.

“But once we got into it, we were okay and moved the ball reasonably well.

“If I’m being honest, the biggest disappointment of the night was the fact we made so many mistakes in possession – unforced mistakes, really.

“You don’t mind if the opposition come and press you and press you, like they did in the second half. They got about us and made it difficult for us to pass the ball.

“But in the first half, when it was a real pre-season friendly and we had time and space to pass the ball, we made too many simple mistakes in possession.

“That’s something we have to work on.”

Clarke was pleased to see Reid polishing up his set-piece technique in readiness for the new season.

The former Republic of Ireland international, who scored a similar goal at home to Wigan last season, went close with another free-kick towards the end of the second half.

“It was a good goal and it came at a good time for us,” said Clarke.

“We’d weathered the early period when they had a lot of the ball.

“Peter won a free-kick in a good position and Reidy stuck it in the top corner, which is always nice to see.

“He hit one in the second half just as well.”

Clarke experimented with a 4-3-3 system in the Danish capital and said the performance has given him food for thought.

“I thought it worked okay,” he added.

“We were solid and most of their chances came from shots outside the box.

“It was only late in the game, when we’d made a few changes and three out of the back four had played 90 minutes and were starting to flag a bit, that they started to get behind us and cause us a few more problems.”