Club News

Clarke eager to face old club

Happy memories but boss fully focused on job in hand

STEVE Clarke believes Saturday’s clash with Chelsea (ko 3pm) will provide another good barometer of where his men stand as a Barclays Premier League force.

The Baggies boss has likened the Hawthorns encounter against the Champions League holders to the test his men faced in last month’s harsh last-gasp 2-1 defeat by league champions Manchester City.

And he is relishing taking on the club where he spent 11 years as a player and eight years as a coach.

“It is a good benchmark,” said Clarke.

“It’s not dissimilar to when Manchester City came a few weeks ago and we wanted to challenge ourselves against them.

“We lost the game but we came out of the game with a higher self-esteem, if you like, because we knew we’d given them a really tough game.

“We’ll aim to do that again against Chelsea on Saturday – but this time we’re looking for a positive result.

“We’re going to go out there on Saturday and work as hard as we can to make it a really difficult afternoon for Chelsea.

“That’s the way we’ve set out every game this year and so far it has worked out well.”

Clarke won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, FA Cup and League Cup as a player at Stamford Bridge and as a coach he helped guide the club to two Barclays Premier League titles, an FA Cup win and two League Cup successes in three seasons.

He added: “It would be wrong to say it is just another game because I had a great association with Chelsea.

“Almost 20 years at one club – it’s a big chunk of my life.

“I’ve obviously got good feelings for the place and I’ve still got good friends there, I think I always will.

“It’s where I played the majority of my football, the majority of my memories are there.

“It’s a great club full of really, really good people.

“I won trophies and was successful; I was part of a lot of good teams.

“We got relegated, I won the FA Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup and the League Cup.

“I have really good memories as a player and as a coach – it’s a really big part of my life.

“I’m grateful I made the decision to go there in January 1987.

"When I could have stayed in Scotland I chose to go south.

“Life’s all about making decisions and It was a good decision to go.

“Nobody can take that away from me – they were good times.

“But I’ve moved on and I have to do the job now for Albion.

“I could probably still have been at Chelsea now if I’d chosen to take that path.

“I decided to take away the safety net to challenge myself and push myself.

“It’s a decision I made a number of years ago and I’m comfortable with that decision.”

The third-placed Blues will arrive in the Black Country just three points off the top of the table.

While the Baggies go into the game on the back of successive wins against Southampton and Wigan – and just two places and four points behind Roberto Di Matteo’s men.

“They’re a good team," said Clarke.

“They’ve changed the dynamic of the team over the last couple of years.

“But they’ve still got key players in key positions who can hurt you.

“We’re aware of that.”