Romelu Lukaku must earn starting role at West Brom, warns Steve Clarke


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The Independent Football

West Brom manager Steve Clarke has warned Romelu Lukaku he must fight for his place at the Hawthorns after the high-profile loan signing bemoaned a lack of playing time at Chelsea.

The 19-year-old Belgium international arrived at Stamford Bridge for a reported £18million from Anderlecht a year ago yet despite his lucrative transfer, barely featured for the Blues last season.

Lukaku recently grabbed the chance to prove himself in the Barclays Premier League by making a season-long loan switch to Albion, before this week hitting out at his parent club and branding last season as a waste of time.

Clarke has been impressed by Lukaku's appetite since arriving at the club but warned he must earn his place on merit with fellow strikers Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Markus Rosenberg also vying for places.

"He's certainly hungry, I know that," said the Scot, who is in his first permanent managerial post.

"He wants to do well and prove himself in the Premier League. Whether he has grievances with Chelsea is not for me to comment on. I don't know what happened last year at Chelsea.

"It was obviously going to be difficult for him to get in the team ahead of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres and that proved to be the case.

"But he's got a clean slate this year. He's one of a number of strikers competing for a place in my team and I'm hoping that at the end of this year he's not complaining about anything."

Asked whether Lukaku's comments bode well regarding any hopes Albion have of keeping him permanently, Clarke said: "I think when you look at the size of the fee that Chelsea paid for him, signing him permanently might be a little more difficult for us."

Lukaku came from the bench to score in Belgium's 4-2 win over rivals Holland last night and Clarke was encouraged by reviews of his contribution.

"We had somebody there watching him and had good reports," he said.

"He came on, did very well, scored the goal and helped to turn the game in the favour of Belgium. It's good when your players do well."

West Brom reportedly face a battle to hold onto director of football Dan Ashworth with the Football Association strongly linked with a move to make him their new technical director.

Clarke, who has worked closely with the former Norwich player since arriving this summer, hopes Ashworth remains at the club.

"My relationship with Dan has worked really well," he said.

"I think everybody knows the good work he does here. He takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders and has certainly made this job much much easier for me to settle into.

"I speak to Dan every day and he hasn't given me any indication that he's got his mind on other things, he's focused only on the job here at the Albion.

"If that changes I'm sure Dan will let me know and when he does that I'll let you know. But at the moment there's nothing to indicate that Dan won't be here long-term."

Clarke will assess the fitness of Jonas Olsson and James Morrison ahead of Saturday's opener against Liverpool after the pair picked up knocks playing for Sweden and Scotland respectively in midweek.