Thursday 30 October 2014

Clarke rules out European bid

Published 07/10/2012 | 13:32

Steve Clarke's side moved up to fourth in the Barclays Premier League

Steve Clarke says he is not surprised by West Brom's superb start to the Barclays Premier League season but has played down talk of challenging for a European spot.

Albion moved into fourth place after defeating QPR 3-2 at the Hawthorns, and have now taken 14 points from their opening seven games. It completed a successful 24 hours for the midlands outfit after key defender Jonas Olsson signed a new four-year contract on Friday evening.

But head coach Clarke was keeping his feet firmly on the ground after seeing goals from James Morrison, Zoltan Gera and Youssouf Mulumbu earn the Baggies a fourth successive home league win. Reflecting on his side's start, Clarke said: "It takes a lot to surprise me. I knew when I came into this job that I was inheriting a really good group of players."

He continued: "I knew the club was on the up and for me it was a fantastic opportunity. To start this way is really pleasing. We are only seven games into the campaign and we are not getting carried away - but we can be pleased with what we have done so far."

When asked if a European spot was a possibility, Clarke said: "No. We know what our primary objective is and we're firmly focused on that at the moment. It's to ensure another season in Premier League. That's got to be the bottom line for the majority of clubs in the league.

"The quicker we get to that objective, then we can start to look and see where we can get to. But we're still a long way from that. I think the fans can be happy. But I don't look at the position in the league.

"It is still too early. The league hasn't really panned out yet but 14 points from seven games is a really good return. We are pleased that our efforts and the quality of our play this year has been rewarded."

Clarke has attempted to add flair to the solid foundations and hard-to-beat mentality installed by predecessor Roy Hodgson. He said: "It's something we have spoken about. It's something we can build on. We are normally solid defensively. We know if we can keep that solid foundation and start to introduce a little more attacking flair, then we can give anyone in the Premier League a game."

On Olsson's new contract, Clarke added: "It is a big boost for everyone at the club, a big boost for the player himself and he deserves it.

"He has been fantastic at West Brom since he signed, has worked ever so hard for the club. He is one of those defenders who puts his body on the line, he sticks his head in, he gets his blocks in. He can pass from the back as well, he is a quality player, and we are all delighted he has signed a new contract and chosen to stay with us."

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