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Mar 8, 2013

Odemwingie remains in West Brom plans

Steve Clarke has revealed that Peter Odemwingie could yet have a long-term future at West Bromwich Albion.

• Blog: Hoodoos, mistakes, positives

It had been assumed that the controversial Nigerian forward would leave in the summer, especially as his flurry of characteristic outspoken tweets earlier in the year had included the declaration that he would be off at the end of the season.

But he has gone on as substitute in Albion's last two games and Clarke believes he is only a goal or two away from being fully reintegrated at The Hawthorns.

"He could have a future here beyond the summer," the head coach said. "He has another year on his contract.

"Things happen and then life moves on. That's the world. We have all moved on and I look forward to his contribution for the rest of the season. We have a good coach-player relationship and he's a good talent. There's no problem.

"The less we talk about it, the more likely we are to move on completely. And if he plays and scores goals, the fans will give him a good reception."

Clarke has made Odemwingie wait for a return to the starting line-up since his astonishing transfer-deadline drive to QPR.

He left him out of his 18 after taking him to the game at Liverpool last month and then heard him booed by some supporters when he sent him on late in the home victory over Sunderland.

But an ankle injury that makes Shane Long doubtful for Saturday could leave Odemwingie with a fuller role to play in the Hawthorns clash with Swansea.

Clarke is content at how his squad have welcomed the player back into the fold but said there have been no talks about his position for next season.

"I have not spoken to him about it – he's still trying to get into the team," he added. "I'm pleased with all the squad (for taking him back). And he has knuckled down and worked hard."

Clarke is delighted to have Baggies man of the moment Romelu Lukaku available again for the visit of the Capital One Cup winners and has ruled out any chance of central defender Craig Dawson – currently having a prolific scoring spell with Bolton – being joined out on loan by winger Jerome Thomas.

"The squad was down to the bare bones at Chelsea last week. I had Romelu out, Goran Popov suspended and Chris Brunt injured and I had to name a 16-year-old on the bench.

"I can't let anybody else go out. My squad isn't big enough. It's good to have Rom back, though – he's in a good run of form. And Chris Brunt is fit again."

Popov, in disgrace after being sent off for spitting in the direction of Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker early last month, could yet become a permanent Albion signing in the summer with the club holding an option to buy him. Clarke is delighted with the competition for the left-back place between he and Liam Ridgewell.

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