Club News

Clarke: We're staying grounded

Head coach also highlights performances of defensive linchpin McAuley

STEVE Clarke believes Albion’s team spirit and experience are to thank for their best-ever start to a Barclays Premier League season. 

The Baggies head to Fulham on Saturday (ko 3pm) looking to further improve on their best opening to a top-flight campaign for 34 years.

But the 49-year-old head coach insists none of his players are getting carried away - despite remaining unbeaten in all competitions so far this term.    

“I think everybody is pleased with the start,” said Clarke. 

“What's good, though, is that even though the players are pleased with the start, nobody is getting carried away.

“We understand there are many tough games to come.

"We’re just focussed on the next game and trying to get a positive result down at Craven Cottage.

“The good thing about it here is that it’s a good experienced squad.

“All the experienced players understand how difficult the Premier League is.

"Their feet are firmly on the ground.”

Clarke is looking to replicate the consistency of Saturday’s opponents, with the Cottagers finishing no lower than 12th in their last four Premier League campaigns.     

“Fulham have acquitted themselves really well in the Premier League," he added.

“They are an established Premier League club.

“That’s what we aim for here.

“They are probably run slightly differently to the way the chairman runs things here. 

“But Fulham are a good benchmark.

"They are a team that have come through the leagues and have managed to put together a really good squad of players that is competitive in the Premier League.”

The Baggies have recorded two clean sheets and conceded only one goal in their opening three Premier League fixtures, with Arsenal the only side in the Football League who have yet to concede.

Clarke has taken time out to praise Gareth McAuley, whose impressive performances alongside Jonas Olsson at the heart of defence have helped improve the Baggies' defensive record since joining on a Bosman 14 months ago.

“Gareth’s been great since I arrived here,” Clarke added. 

“Obviously, I watched his performances from a distance last year, which was his first in the Premier League.

"Gareth has really stepped up to the mark. 

“Sometimes, as you get older, you relish that kind of challenge. 

“Maybe if that had happened when he was a little bit younger, he would have found it a bit more daunting, whereas he’s got the experience now and understands what he’s capable of. 

“He’s risen to the challenge, which is something that comes better with experience.

“He understands and respects the fact he’s got a talent in football. 

“There’s a lot of players like that, who just come in, do their job and try to do the best they can everyday in training and everytime they are picked to play in a match. 

“It’s a great gift.

"It’s also fantastic for me as a head coach when you’ve got players like that.”