Almost a third of the way into this season’s Premier League, Steve Clarke has done a phenomenal job against the odds in guiding West Bromwich Albion into fourth place, recording impressive results including a recent 2-1 victory over former club Chelsea.
Having played down his team’s performances earlier in the campaign, the Scot now admits that his side are doing too well to avoid the talk about qualifying for Europe, saying, “at the moment, we are in the right position to think about Europe – but we go from game to game.”
So can The Baggies hold on and defy the odds by possibly beating the likes of Liverpool, Everton or Newcastle to a top seven finish?
The West Midlands side were certainly a competitive force last season as well under Roy Hodgson – finishing a respectable tenth – but although very defensively solid, they were not particularly enjoyable to watch. However with Clarke now at the helm, not only have they stayed hard to break down – conceding only 13 goals in 12 games – but they now play pleasant attacking football.
In his own words, 49-year-old Clarke said, “I wanted to try and make supporters go home happy at the weekend after watching a team who have played attractive football and tried to play football the right way and get positive results.”
Whether they maintain their high-standing all season, only time will tell. But with brilliant performances from players such as Ben Foster, Claudio Yacob, Jonas Olsson and James Morrison, amongst others, the fans will be forgiven for thinking that maybe this will be a year for them to remember – believing that anything can be possible after the over-achieving fifth place of Newcastle United last season.
With teams such as Newcastle and Liverpool making slow starts in the league, it will give West Brom even more hope, and by taking every game at a time, perhaps they’ll be sitting very nicely in the top half come the end of the season.
It will be a considerable task, with every game getting harder for Clarke and his team, but the highly-rated coach has much experience – being assistant manager at Liverpool and under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea – so he’ll know what is required to sustain a league standing.
With one or two signings in January, to keep an eagerness and freshness around the club, West Brom should be in the thick of a very exciting finish to hopefully yet another year in the unique astonishing Barclays Premier League.
Seventh place is certainly not out of reach for the one-time English League Champions.