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Clarke lauds rise of 'career coaches'

Steve Clarke has welcomed the emergence of 'career coaches' in the Premier League and hopes the trend against big-name celebrity appointments will continue.

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Saturday's clash between West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City brings Clarke into direct opposition with Chris Hughton, another man who served a long apprenticeship in the dug-out before becoming a manager.

The West Brom boss says he longs to see more managers like Brendan Rodgers and Brian McDermott remain in the top jobs.

"I think there's probably a bit of education involved," he said. "We spend a lot of hours working on our coaching badges, doing spells with youth team players and reserve team players.

"Clubs are now looking at that and thinking these guys are doing their time and educating themselves properly and maybe they see the way things have gone and the success the likes of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho have had after stepping up from being coaches.

"Maybe they're starting to look at a whole education process and not just picking a name of someone who was a good player. There are a number of people who have had decent careers as players - myself and Chris for instance - and have chosen a different path to educate ourselves more before going into the hot seat.

"Maybe we're more ready for the challenge, rather than going in cold. I'd like to think the trend will continue. In Italy, you have to do all your coaching badges. Similar in Holland and Germany. Maybe it's become en vogue in this country, too.

"There is no right or wrong way. People have to make decisions, then you have to live or die by them. Maybe in the future, it will go back again. But, in the current cycle, it seems to be that chairmen want people who have spent a little bit more time working on the coaching side."

As content as Clarke is with Albion's progress in his first half season as a manager, he dofs his cap to the staff around him and he hopes that the two most senior men beneath him, Kevin Keen and Keith Downing, have a limited time span in the Hawthorns dug-out and can branch out alone.

"They're doing a great job for me," he said. "They've been fantastic. The strength of any manager is the team he has around him and his players.

"I'm lucky here - I have good people working with me and good players playing for me. Ninety nine per cent of people in football have the ambition to be the best we can be. That's why we're in the job.

"You want to be the best you can be - it's normal to have that ambition and I would be disappointed if I had two coaches who are just happy to be coaches. They'd have to show more than that - and I think they do."

Clarke and Hughton could easily have worked together by now rather than preparing to be managerial opponents for the first time.

When Albion's head coach was out of work a couple of years ago, an opportunity looked like presenting itself to him thanks to a man who was himself strongly linked with the Hawthorns vacancy in the summer.

"It has worked out well for the pair of us," he said. "He has done a great job. More than that, he is a good person. When he was at Newcastle, we had a little conversation about maybe me going up there to join him. It was a really good, honest chat that we had.

"At the time, I was out of the game and I appreciated the fact he took the time to call me. But Newcastle got rid of him a couple of weeks after we had the conversation. He lost his job when maybe he didn't deserve to lose it.

"Chris is a really good man, a good honest person. He has taken a similar route to me and spent a long time as an assistant waiting for the right job to go into."

Clarke's main dilemma this afternoon is deciding whether Ben Foster is ready to return after hernia surgery in place of Boaz Myhill, who has deputised well for the last month and a half.

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