Monday 26 November 2012
With West Bromwich Albion flying high in third place in the Barclays Premier League standings premierleague.com caught up with a former team-mate of Steve Clarke to find out why he has taken to top-flight management like a duck to water.
"West Brom play some brilliant football - Steve's not tinkered too much, just fine details here and there"
PLTV pundit and former Scotland international Craig Burley spent eight years with Clarke at Chelsea, and explains that it is the former right-back's man-management skills that are garnering positive results.
Premierleague.com: Steve Clarke has made an extraordinary start at West Bromwich Albion. As a former team-mate what can you tell us about him?
CB: He’s a miserable sod. Like Paul Lambert and myself, us Jocks are all bloody miserable! No, I’m really pleased for Steve. West Brom is a great story at the moment. They play some brilliant football. He made a couple of signings in the summer. He’s not tinkered too much with [Roberto] Di Matteo and then [Roy] Hodgson’s squad. It’s just little fine details here and there.
He served a great apprenticeship, starting off at Newcastle to work under [Ruud] Gullit, he’s also worked with Gianfranco Zola and he worked for a while with Jose Mourinho, who some people were surprised he took under his wing and then he went to Liverpool with Kenny [Dalglish] and was given the opportunity to be No 1.
A lot of these guys want to be No 1 but it’s dipping your toes in the water and not knowing what’s coming. Many West Brom fans were worried when he was appointed and said, 'Coaches can’t be managers, this is not going to work.' But their heads have been turned and I’m really pleased for him because he’s a good guy.
I played with him many, many times for Chelsea. I hope he talks to his players in a better manner than he did to me when I used to give him the ball because he used to give me a slating. He used to play right-back right behind me and what he said to me was not repeatable, but I’m sure the players are enjoying working with him.
"It brings a great freshness to the Barclays Premier League"
I’m really pleased to see it working well for him, because it’s not rocket science. You’ve got a striker in Shane Long who’s playing the football of his life, he’s got two big centre-halves that just head it away, who are prepared to defend, and he’s bought the likes of [Claudio] Yacob in midfield to go along with the players that were already there.
He’s just fine-tuned a couple of things and got a loan signing in [Romelu] Lukaku from Chelsea and rotating his strikers as he has in Long, [Peter] Odemwingie and Lukaku and its really, really worked for him. I hope it continues, because it brings a great freshness to the Barclays Premier League. It’s lovely to see the West Broms and the Evertons up there and long may it continue.
Do you think by getting underrated players who are hungry, there are not so many ego problems that might come with a more star-studded side, and Clarke’s achievement has been to mould them into a strong unit?
Absolutely, you can coach until the cows come home and you can have all the badges and the clipboards you want, but if you can’t man-manage people … it’s no different to going into any office, if you go to work and everyone hates their boss and their line manager, it’s just not a good environment.
You have to create that environment before you start worrying about the coaching aspect and I’m sure Steve has fostered that atmosphere. At the end of the day you shouldn’t need to motivate players but, unfortunately, sometimes you do, because everybody’s a little different.
West Brom will have to live to fit their means, so he knows the market he’s dealing in and he knows he has to go and find these players.
"He’s convinced the players what he wants to do is right and that, in a nutshell, is half the battle"
He can’t pay top-box for players but he knows he’s got a club that’s well run, a squad he inherited that were doing pretty well under Hodgson and not too bad under Di Matteo and he’s not turned up and said, 'Right, 10 players in, 10 players out.' He’s just decided to tinker a little bit with the areas he thinks he can improve and that’s exactly what he’s done.
The difficulty now will be keeping it going because everybody’s talking about him and I for one certainly hope that they can.
Do you think people are starting to take notice?
Whenever you look at West Brom now you put them down for a win and even if they’re playing one of the big boys you’d put them down for a good result. People have taken notice. There’s a realism about how far it can probably go for them but anything from sixth down to mid-table would be another great season for them because eventually it will take its toll on them, but I’m sure Stevie’s realised that as well and I’m sure the supporters are realistic enough.
But what he has done is endear himself to the supporters, which helps, he’s convinced the players that what he wants to do is right because they’ve seen that in the results and that in a nutshell is half the battle.