Club News

Clarke wary of Magpies threat

And 'frustrated' boss eager for win against former club

STEVE Clarke has warned his players to expect a ‘fired-up’ Newcastle side in Saturday’s Hawthorns clash (ko 3pm).

The 13th-placed Magpies head to the Black Country on the back of a disappointing 3-0 home derby defeat by Sunderland to leave them flirting with danger five points above the drop zone.

Clarke says his former club will be intent on securing the victory he believes they need to secure their Barclays Premier League status for another season.

But his only concern is to add to his eighth-placed team’s points tally, after revealing his frustration at being stuck on 44 for the last two games.

“I’m spending a small percentage of time looking ahead because I want to finish the season well,” said the Baggies boss.

“I’m frustrated we’re stuck on 44 points and we haven’t moved off it in the last two games.

“I want to make sure over the last six games we keep picking up points.

“My main focus is on finishing this season well.

“And I know that if we approach the last six games the way we approached the Arsenal game we’ll pick up more points.”

Clarke, whose first senior coaching position came as assistant manager to Ruud Gullit at St James’ Park in 1998, added: “I went up to watch Newcastle at the weekend and it was a great atmosphere and a really good performance by Sunderland.

“Derby games are different, they are one-offs.

“I think they maybe got Newcastle at a good time, when they had just been knocked out of the Europa League, and, as Alan Pardew said, there was maybe a little bit of tiredness mentally and physically.

“They have had a fresh week this week and I’m sure they will be fired up to get the win they need to cement their position in the Premier League for next season.”

Albion suffered last-gasp heartbreak in the reverse fixture in October as Papiss Cisse’s fortuitous injury-time strike pinched all the points for the hosts in a game the visitors dominated for large parts.

And Clarke reckons his men will face a better United side than the one they took on that day.

“It was disappointing,” he said.

“It was a game where I was preparing to say how disappointed I was to drop two points and then we ended up dropping all three.

“We played well that day and I think even Newcastle would admit we were better than them.

“A long time has gone since then and things have changed.

“Newcastle have gone out in the January window and spent quite a large amount of money to improve their squad and make sure they stay in the Premier League.

“They have had the distraction of the Europa League, which they don’t have now, so I’m sure they will be focused on trying to make it difficult at the weekend.

“I think they need one more win to secure their place in the league, so it will be a tough game for us.

“I think Newcastle are better now than when we played them earlier this season.”