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Feb 22, 2013

Clarke expecting transfer upheaval

Steve Clarke admits he has been scouring Europe for new talent in anticipation of losing several members of his West Bromwich Albion squad in the summer.

• Blog: Key players and combinations

Such has been Albion's progress for the second year running that The Hawthorns head coach anticipates considerable interest in his players at the end of the season.

As a result, he has used the club's recent 12-day break between fixtures to search for replacements.

"It has been proved over the years that we can find players," Clarke said. "The club have always tended to have a number of players on short-term or loan contracts and at the end of the season, there's a possibility there will be three, four, five or six changes.

"You never know what's going to happen in the transfer market. We've had a really good season and maybe some other, bigger clubs will show an interest in some of the players we've got. We'll have to wait and see. Our job is to make sure that we have a number of targets ready to come in as and when we need to chase those targets.

"I'm not going to say where I've been but I went to another European country and watched a couple of matches to broaden my knowledge with a view to strengthening the squad for next season. My coaching staff did the same. We saw some good games and a lot of good players."

Clarke was at pains from early this season to say that the squad at his disposal was the one he envisaged working with throughout the 2012-13 campaign.

He stood by that policy, insisting there would not be any significant departures - apart from Chris Wood - in January, but is clearly bracing himself for potential movement in the close season.

Romelu Lukaku is on a one-season loan from Chelsea, the futures of Peter Odemwingie and Jonas Olsson remain uncertain, and the likes of Shane Long, Ben Foster, Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob have all enhanced their reputations sufficiently for bigger clubs to be interested in them.

"The summer window is different because it's longer," Clarke said. "Most clubs reshape their squad over that window rather than the January one, where it's more makeshift."

Albion hope to prove their poor New Year run is behind them when they return to The Hawthorns to take on Sunderland on Saturday.

It is their first game since the stunning victory at Liverpool a week-and-a-half ago but the Wearsiders, who have had some recent warm-weather training in Dubai, have strengthened by spending £5 million on Danny Graham since Albion won 4-2 at the Stadium of Light in the autumn.

"The players had three or four days off immediately after Liverpool to recharge the batteries and the training has been good and sharp since they came back," Clarke said. "We've used the time wisely but it has also been a bit frustrating because, on the back of such a good result, the players are desperate to get back on the pitch.

"It was a win we needed (against Liverpool). We'd had a negative run of results for about six weeks and for a team who were used to winning, that was hard to take. With the performance and result at Anfield, we hope we can go on and achieve a good finish.

"We have gone too long without a win at home considering we had a great start. It's still difficult for teams to come here but we haven't been winning and we need to get three points on the board. We're at home and maybe we can a bit a bit more adventurous."

Meanwhile, Clarke dismissed the notion that Lukaku - scorer of the second goal at Anfield - was more likely to start against Sunderland because he could not play away to his parent club Chelsea next weekend.

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