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West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke has vetoed the possible January departure of Jerome Thomas and challenged the winger to earn a new contract.
A host of Championship clubs are keen to take Thomas, out of contract in the summer, after he spent an impressive loan spell at Leeds, but Clarke expects him to play a big part in the second half of the season at the Hawthorns.
Zoltan Gera’s season-ending injury has given Thomas the chance to earn an extended run in the team after returning from Elland Road, and Clarke could now extend the 29-year-old’s stay.
Thomas missed most of the early season because of summer knee surgery. It had seemed likely that he would be allowed to leave this month, but the cruciate ligament injury that has sidelined Gera for up to nine months has forced a rethink.
“This is a great chance for him. He will get chances to play, be in and around the team and it’s up to him to show the form he has in the previous seasons because he’s been a good servant for the Albion,” Clarke said.
“We will look forward to some really good performances from him in the second half of the season. Jerome Thomas is one who can cover for Zoltan.
“We didn’t have Jerome in the first few weeks of the season because he was always injured. When he got himself fit he was in the squad, but the team were in a great place and he had no prospect to play matches.
“He went out to play matches, which he did with Leeds. That was good for him, and the timing couldn’t be better. He will slot straight into the squad.”
While Thomas has a new opportunity, Clarke said Albion would still be looking to allow Graham Dorrans to leave the club this month if they can reach an agreement that suits all parties.
“If it’s good for the club and it is good for Graham, we will do something in January. If not, he will stay with us until the rest of this season,” he added.