And Clarke delighted with team's defensive work
STEVE Clarke has praised Billy Jones for taking his game to a new level this season.
The former Crewe and Preston defender has been part of an ever-present back-four that has conceded just six goals in eight Barclays Premier League games.
And Clarke is delighted with the right-back's contribution going forward and defensively ahead of Saturday's trip to high-flying Liverpool (ko 3pm).
“Since I came here last year Billy has been improving all the time," said the Baggies boss.
“He put in a lot of good performances last year and there was a good competition between him and Steven [Reid] for the right-back spot.
“This year Billy has just managed to get himself ahead of Steven with good performances.
“He is solid defensively and still gives us creativity going forward on occasions.
“He is starting to learn better when to go forward and when to stay, and I think his defensive work has improved a lot.
“I just think he’s getting more experienced the more games he plays.
“He is obviously an intelligent person and if you speak to Billy you find he is a bit of a deep-thinker, and the more he plays the more comfortable he feels in that position in this league - his performances reflects that.
“I read the comments when he said he was never going to slide tackle in the box again and it shows somebody who thinks a lot about the game, which is great.
“If you think about the game you can only improve.
“I am not going to take any credit for it. I just try to coach the team and don’t specifically work on one player.
“Hopefully at certain times I have been able to say the right things to Billy about one or two positional things - but the credit always has to go to the player."
Albion have only conceded twice in a game once this term and that form is sure to be put to the test against a Reds team who are the 13-goal fourth top scorers in the division.
"I think the team has been very solid, even in the games we didn't do so well," added Clarke.
"If you look at the game against Southampton we defended well and lost to a very unfortunate last-minute penalty.
"The only game where we didn't defend well as a team was Swansea.
"But rather than blaming the defenders, or midfielders, it was more a game where the team tried too hard to force the pace and win the game.
"In other games we have defended well as a team.
“I always say that when you defend well as a team it starts with your front players and works back from there.
“This group and this back-four have been really consistent this season.
“It makes it difficult for the boys that are behind them and pushing them for their places.
"But it shows we have good strength when you look at the players behind them."