Club News

Clarke: I have to look ahead

And boss calls on squad to stand up and be counted in 'demanding' week

STEVE Clarke admits there will be an element of looking ahead to the next two games when picking his side to face Sunderland on Saturday (ko 12.45pm).

The Hawthorns boss has called on his squad to stand up and be counted as the fourth-placed Baggies head into what he has described as a ‘demanding’ run of three matches in eight days.

Albion travel to tenth-placed Swansea four days after their Stadium of Light trip and host 14th-placed Stoke next Saturday.

“It is a demanding week on the players and the squad will need to step forward and be counted this week,” said Clarke.

“I've been saying all season I've got a good squad, a big squad, and they've shown over the 12 games so far that when they come in, they are ready to play.

“In a week like this I’ve got to look at the three games but the players only look at the next game.

“I’ve got to think about what I might do at the end of the week if we get through the first two games okay.

“But you never know how you’re going to go and the players can only concentrate on the game on Saturday - and that’s the message they’ll get.

“I’ve got to look at the whole week.

“The first thing is we've got a difficult game at Sunderland.

“But what happens on Saturday will shape the rest of the week and I’ve got in my mind now a team for Wednesday night and Saturday.

“If I’ve got a player who is really important to me he will probably play all three games if he’s fit and available.”

Despite the 15th-placed Black Cats’ lowly league position, Clarke is expecting a difficult encounter, especially with Martin O’Neill’s men buoyed by their 3-1 win at Fulham last Sunday.

"It is a difficult game,” said the former Newcastle coach.

“It’s a big club, they are a team that have invested a bit of money in the summer to try and push themselves up the league.

“It hasn't quite gone for them but they've shown signs in certain matches that they have the capability to be a very good team.

“They've also had an imbalance of games with only four at home and seven away.

“I'm sure their points return is not what they would like it to be.

“But their last result at Fulham was excellent and they will be looking to build on that.

“It is up to us to just continue what we are doing.”

Clarke is also wary of former Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, who has six goals to his name for the Mackems this term.

“He is a very dangerous player,” he added.

“He has scored goals wherever he’s been and I’m sure with him being ex-Wolves he might want to cause us a few more problems.

“We will do our best to keep him as quiet as we can, which is no easy task because I think he is a very good player.”