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Clarke bemoans international friendlies

Steve Clarke cursed the international fixtures after midweek friendlies dented his hopes of having a fully-fit West Brom squad for the Hawthorns clash with his former club Liverpool on Saturday.

• Lukaku hits out at Chelsea

Clarke has had a largely trouble-free first few weeks in charge but arrived at his desk on Thursday morning to hear that James Morrison and Jonas Olsson had been hurt while on duty with their countries.

Midfielder Morrison rolled his ankle in Scotland's home victory over Australia, while Olsson picked up a knock playing for Sweden against Brazil in Stockholm, and Clarke was unhappy with coaches, saying he felt they had unnecessarily risked the fitness of his players by fielding them for 90 minutes.

"Some of the lads played for 90 minutes, which is not very good," he said. "Nobody needs to play for 90 minutes in these friendlies. International managers have a responsibility to look after players as well.

"James actually came off after 25 minutes and is being assessed today. Until he has been, I can't really say about him for the weekend. The fact he came off quickly helps."

Clarke will be particularly keen to see that Olsson recovers in time after learning that his central defensive partner Gareth McAuley, 34, played throughout Northern Ireland's 3-3 draw with Finland in Belfast.

Any fears that injury had ruled Shane Long out of Republic of Ireland's draw away to Serbia were allayed when the Baggies manager said the striker had been fit for the game but was left out following a communications breakdown with Giovanni Trapattoni.

Albion, meanwhile, had a representative at Belgium's victory over Netherlands, in which new signing Romalu Lukaku caught the eye.

"There are good reports," Clarke added. "He scored a goal and helped turn the game. He's hungry and wants to prove himself in the Premier League.

"Whether he has any grievances with Chelsea I don't know. It's not for me to worry about what happened there. He has a clean slate here, and he's one of a number of forwards competing for a place in my team.

"When you look at the fee Chelsea paid for him, a permanent deal [at West Brom] might be difficult. We're thankful we have the boy for the season. If he is improving his game, it will help Albion."

Clarke said he is delighted with his striking options and content with what he has in midfield. He is satisfied with his strength at the back, too, although he hopes to sign another defender before the transfer window shuts.

The Scot is counting down the hours to his first league game with the Baggies, saying: "It's not the most technical league in the world, but it's the most exciting and generates a lot of interest worldwide. Everybody wants to be in the Premier League.

"There's an extra excitement for me as it's my first chance in it as a manager. I have no grievances with Liverpool and, whoever we had been playing, it would have been such a big game."

Clarke, meanwhile, says he has no reason to believe that Albion's director of football Dan Ashworth is about to leave.

Ashworth has been linked with a job with the FA but Clarke insisted: "I have spoken to him every day and he has not given me the impression he has a mind on other things. If it changes, I'm sure he will let me know but there's nothing to indicate he won't be here for the long term."


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