Steve Clarke Will Find Hodgson a Hard Act to Follow At Hawthorns

by Richard Smith

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Steve Clarke takes over the reins at West Bromwich Albion this week for what will be his first permanent appointment as a club manager rather than just a number two and first team coach. The appointment is no doubt a big gamble by the board at the Hawthorns, who saw the Baggies finish in the top half of the table last season under Roy Hodgson.

To repeat that effort is a very tall order for Clarke but at least he will have the benefit of inheriting a settled squad. Hodgson’s efforts  were in part, rewarded with him being appointedEnglandmanager.

Clarke comes to the club following stints as coach atNewcastle, West Ham,Chelseaand more recentlyLiverpooland in the process gaining a reputation as one of the best coaches in the game. He is a highly committed individual who was touted by many as being Jose Mourinho’s replacement, Mourinho in fact was one of the first to applaud Clarke’s appointment at theMidlandsclub.

The current squad atWest Bromis not one filled with household names but they are players committed to playing for the team on a disciplined basis, rather than plating for themselves. As a result, it will be essential that Clarke maintains that ethos.

Nigerian, Peter Odemwingie top scored for the team last season with 10 Premier League goals while midfielder Chris Brunt topped the assists chart with six. As confirmation of their good team discipline, the baggies finished third in the Premier League Fair Play table with just 50 points after only one red card and 48 yellow cards all season.

They finished in 10th place in the Premiership last season, reaping 47 points from their 38 games and had plenty in hand in the relegation battle. However, they will once again be amongst the favourites to be relegated in 2013 and improving on 10th is a tall order with so much dominance amongst the top teams. As such, Clarke has his work cut out not only to avoid relegation but also to show signs of progress. It is a big gamble by the board and equally by Clarke but after over decade behind the scenes, this could be the start of a glittering managerial career if the hype about his coaching ability is to be realised.

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