Club News

Keen: Popov has laid down gauntlet

Clarke's joint-No.2 had no doubts about new left-back in derby

KEVIN Keen admits Goran Popov has laid down a strong marker to Liam Ridgewell for Albion’s left-back slot following his impressive debut in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Villa.

The on-loan Dynamo Kiev bounced back from a recent groin problem and replaced the injured Ridgewell (calf) in the Baggies defence.

And Keen has been singing Popov's praises, insisting the coaching staff never had any doubts he would thrive in the white-hot atmosphere of a West Midlands derby.

“We had no doubts about it being a derby,” said Steve Clarke’s joint-No.2.

“Whether we were playing Manchester United away, Aston Villa or whoever, it didn’t matter because he has come from a club with a big pedigree.

“He has played Champions League and you can see in his demeanour and the way he handles himself around the place, this is not a chap who is going to be fazed by anything.

“So we had no doubts on that front and the way he performed on Sunday shows he is going to be a great addition to the squad and he will certainly put some of our defenders under pressure for keeping their places, which is all great.

“We were really pleased with him on Sunday, he did well, and he’s not a shy boy.”

Keen added: “Competition for places is good and the gaffer is going to have tough decisions to make.

“Liam can play centre-half as well and we needed cover at left-back if Liam was to get injured.

“It’s a position where we haven’t got much cover.

“We’ve got people who can play full-back in Billy and Gonzo, who can do left-back at a push.

“But we’ve got a left-back now and that’s his position.

“We’ve got good cover there and Liam can certainly play centre-half as he did earlier in his career.

“It gives us good options at the back when we have got a couple of injuries.”