And boss only has minor injury doubts to a few players ahead of Newcastle trip
STEVE Clarke insists his players head to in-form Newcastle on Saturday (ko 5.30pm) with no fear.
The Baggies come up against an eighth-placed United team, who have won their last three games – against Chelsea, Tottenham and Norwich.
But Albion have only lost one in their last nine games and a victory at St James’ Park – where they won two seasons ago and were hugely unfortunate to lose last term – would see them move within two points of the Geordies in the Barclays Premier League table.
"Newcastle have done something that's really difficult to do in the Premier League which is win three games in a row,” said Clarke, who only has minor doubts over a few players ahead of the trip to the North East.
"Any team that manages to do that means their situation, their feeling about themselves, their position in the league will change dramatically.
"It happened to us last year when we managed to string together four wins in a row which rocketed us up into the top four at one stage.
"So if you can put together a run like that then it's good for your confidence and good for your league position.
"Newcastle have done that with three really big results for them, so it's up to us to make sure it doesn't become four big ones."
Clarke worked as assistant manager to Ruud Gullit for the Magpies during the 1998/99 season before a spell under Bobby Robson.
And he is relishing tomorrow’s encounter in front of the live TV cameras.
"It's a great atmosphere up there,” he added.
"I was fortunate enough to spend two years at Newcastle, so I know what it is like.
"It's a city where the football club is the focus, and the focus is always on the game every weekend.
"There's a passionate atmosphere with a big crowd, a big stadium, but we don't go there with any fear, we don't worry about the atmosphere.
"We've been there before and handled it, winning there two years ago.
"Last year we went up there and played very well. We were really unlucky to come away with nothing.
"I was preparing my disappointed speech to talk about a draw, and I had to change it to talk a disappointed speech to talk about no points.
"We'll just look to build on what we have been doing recently, and turn draws into wins."
"I said before the game against Villa that after ten, 11, 12 games you start to level out where you are in the league.
"Newcastle have done the difficult part, which is putting together three wins, which is massive because it's taken them from a position near the bottom to a position near the top.
"So they deserve to be where they are, we deserve to be where we are, so our job at the weekend is to make sure we close the gap."