Boss says Southampton players have found their feet in PremSTEVE Clarke has urged his players not to become newly-promoted Southampton’s latest scalp at St Mary’s Stadium tomorrow (ko 3pm).
The 12th-placed Saints have beaten top-seven outfits Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea over the course of their last five home games.
And Clarke takes his eighth-placed men down to the south coast knowing they will face a different proposition to the team they beat 2-0 in November.
“We go to Southampton this weekend, which is a difficult place to go, as a number of teams have found this season, and we'll try and get another positive result for the club,” said the Baggies boss.
“Their form is good and they’ve had a number of notable scalps down there this season.
“We have to make sure we don’t join that list.
“As far as staying in the division, for me, they are safe.
“Earlier in the season Southampton were struggling to find their feet as Premier League players.
“They came up with Nigel [Adkins], they had some good performances but couldn’t quite get the results.
“I think as the season has gone on they have grown into the league.
“They have a number of really good players and those players have found their feet at this level, and the results have followed.
“It coincides with a change of manager - and the new guy has done well.
“You have to give him credit.
“He’s come into a new league that he probably didn’t know very well and has found a way of playing.
“They are certainly more aggressive on their forward pressing.
“They try to win the ball back really quickly.
“He’s found a good way of playing, he’s getting the best out of his players, and that’s all you can ask for as a manager or coach.
“They’ve found players who can express themselves at this level and so have we, so it should be an interesting game.”
Clarke is also wary of Southampton striker Rickie Lambert, who lies seventh in the top-flight scoring chart with 14 goals to his name in his first-ever Barclays Premier League campaign.
He added: “Rickie has been questioned as he’s come up through the divisions – ‘will he score goals in this division?’
“Rickie Lambert is a goalscorer.
“Whatever level he plays at he’ll score goals.”