Head coach claims Albion fully deserve their lofty positionSTEVE Clarke says there has been no luck involved in Albion’s surge to third place in the Barclays Premier League – insisting: “We deserve to be there.”
The Baggies’ thrilling 4-2 success at Sunderland saw them record four successive wins in the top flight for the first time since 1980.
Only the two Manchester giants are above them while European champions Chelsea are a point behind in fourth place. Clarke’s men also have a five-point cushion on fifth.
Albion’s impressive start to the season has flown in the face of many pundits’ pre-season predictions.
But Clarke insists the Baggies are not only in the Champions League places on merit, they probably deserve to have even more points on the board.
“It's certainly not been a lucky start,” said the head coach.
“We've earned every point we’ve got. You could even say we’ve been unlucky not to get more points in some games.
“It’s been a solid start and we’ve deserved everything we’ve got.
“We’re third and we deserve to be there.
“But we won't get carried away.
“We don’t think that, because we’re up there, we’re big-time Charlies.
“We’ll stay grounded and just keep working. But as I’ve said to the players, it could be a good season for us.”
Clarke insists his primary target is still to reach 40 points – the tally commonly regarded as enough to preserve a club’s Barclays Premier League status.
But with 26 points already in the bag, Clarke says he will reassess Albion’s goals if and when they get there.
“You've got to understand that safety is relative,” he explained.
“The idea is you have to get 40 points. But I never said when we had to get those points.
“We’ve made good inroads towards that target.
“If we can get 40 points before the end of January, we can reassess things.
“But the first target is a sensible one and one we will try to deal with.
“We've seen a lot of clubs who have had a lot of points at this stage of the season and gone on to struggle come the end of the season.
“We hope we have the strength and depth in the squad for that not to happen but we will just keep building from game to game.”
Clarke hailed Zoltan Gera, who opened the scoring with a 25-yard stunner, as Albion’s man of the match at Sunderland.
But the head coach revealed he will continue to utilise the 33-year-old wisely, claiming both he and Gera have accepted the fact he cannot start every game.
“Zoltan was terrific,” beamed Clarke.
“He had a career-threatening injury last season and it took him a long time to come back from it.
“But we have nursed him back and tried to protect him.
“He's at the stage where you wouldn't want to play him every game. That would be detrimental to him.
“He accepts that fact and you see in the quality of his performances when we select him that he's always – for me – one of the better players.”