Steve Clarke cautious over high expectations at West Brom


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The Independent Football

Steve Clarke believes West Brom deserve their top-five position in the Barclays Premier League but insists it would be “dangerous” to start thinking of qualifying for Europe.

The Baggies have collected 17 points from their opening 10 matches - their best Premier League start - ahead of tomorrow's clash with Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Head coach Clarke feels it is no fluke, but knows the possible pitfalls from looking too far ahead.

Clarke said: "We are there for a reason because we deserve to be there. The games we've played, we've accumulated a good number of points.

"But it is a dangerous league if you look too far ahead and you take your eye off what you are trying to do at any given time.

"If you do that, it is a league in which you can easily lose three or four games in a row and we have to be careful of that. We have to keep our focus on what we are trying to do which is picking up points from game to game.

"People ask about Europe but it is too early for that. Like I said, it is a dangerous league. If we hadn't won the other night against Southampton, we would be stuck in mid-table.

"One game took us from ninth to fifth. It is tight in the middle of the table."

Clarke added: "I think the mentality outside the football club will change, the expectation level.

"But we know within the club what we are trying to do, where we are trying to get to.

"The players are very level-headed, they know the objectives and how to get towards those objectives, and the first one is to make sure we are safe."

Former Chelsea and Liverpool number two Clarke is also prepared if Albion's season suffers a dip in fortunes.

He said: "I'm ready for it. I'm not expecting it but I would be ready for it. I've got plenty of experience. I've been at clubs which have been on bad runs before.

"I know what it is about, I know how to handle it, but I'm not expecting it."

Clarke believes Latics boss Roberto Martinez is a "pioneer" with the way he encourages and sets his teams up to play.

He said: "In the last few games Wigan have got back to where they were towards the end of last season when they were the best team in the league.

"Is Martinez is a pioneer? I think there has been a general shift in the way the coaches are trying to get their teams to play.

"Maybe in the Premier League, Roberto was one of those who set his team up to play slightly different, to try and get your team to play football no matter what the pressure.

"If you want to have him down as pioneer, you probably could.

"We will go there expecting a difficult game but I'm sure Wigan are expecting a difficult game as well."

Clarke concedes he already has "half an eye" on the January transfer window, particularly as striker Peter Odemwingie and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu will be on African Nations Cup duty.

He said: "We know one or possibly two of the squad could leave us in January to go in the African Nations Cup which is something we will deal with at the time.

"We've got 10 games to play before then but we have got half an eye on the January window.

"But if I keep the same squad over the course of the season, I'll be happy."