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Clarke wants Villa to stay up


Steve Clarke hopes to maintain the derbies with Aston Villa next season

Steve Clarke hopes to maintain the derbies with Aston Villa next season

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Steve Clarke hopes to maintain the derbies with Aston Villa next season

West Brom manager Steve Clarke hopes rivals Aston Villa survive relegation as he believes it will benefit his side in the long-term.

The Baggies could give their near-neighbours a helping hand in their bid to maintain top-fight status if they beat third-bottom Wigan on Saturday. The Latics are currently five points adrift of Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland, and defeat at The Hawthorns would be another huge blow as they try to keep their place in the Barclays Premier League.

"I would like to see the Midlands stronger," Clarke told wba.co.uk. "It's important that you have good competition from the clubs around you."

He added: "If you have that competition it's healthy around the area. It's better for the Midlands that they have more successful teams.

"I would miss Villa. It's important that they finish the season strongly. It's important to have your rivals breathing down your neck.

"You see how much it means to the supporters - they want to be the top dogs. But you want to be the top dogs because you've beaten your nearest rivals or you've finished higher than them in the same league - that's important."

Although West Brom have little to play for in their last four matches, comfortably settled in eighth place, Clarke insists no decisions have been made about next season.

Striker Marc-Antoine Fortune's contract expires this summer and although the 31-year-old will miss the next three games after a red card last weekend, Clarke said that will have no bearing on his thinking.

"He's got a chance of playing again this season because his suspension will be three games," he told the Express and Star. "He is one of a number of players that we'll need a decision on his contract.

"I said a few weeks' ago that what happened between now and the end of the season wouldn't have any bearing on the decisions that I make. I'll sit down with Richard Garlick (sporting and technical director) and the chairman in the weeks coming up and we'll decide how we're going to shape the squad."

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