West Bromwich Albion
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Clarke braces for summer changes

Steve Clarke is braced for a summer of transfer market uncertainty over the West Bromwich Albion squad who have repeatedly surprised the Premier League in his first season in charge.

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The protracted Peter Odemwingie controversy has left the Scot primed for possible disruption, although he hopes most of the close-season business will be inward.

"I've said before that in an ideal world, it'll be fine-tuning," he said. "But you don't know what will happen over the summer.

"Maybe there are some players who are hiding some feelings and maybe they want to move on. Maybe there are some players that other clubs will try and take off you and they will unsettle. It happened to us in January.

"You never know these things but in an ideal world, three or four players added to that squad would keep us moving in the right direction. It is up to us to find the right players."

Albion's relatively small squad now know they will not have the distraction of Europa League football next season. They have failed to win any of their last four games since winning three of their previous four but retain high hopes of a top-eight finish.

And Clarke insists he would love his squad to have still been in with a chance of qualifying.

"I'd love to finish sixth... I'd love to qualify for the Europa League," he said. "I know what Alan Pardew is saying. It does stretch you and is difficult but if you're in the game to be successful, you want to be as successful as you can be.

"We want to finish as high up the League as we can. Unfortunately this year won't be high enough for European football but we'll still try and finish in the top 10, which would be a great achievement for this club.

"We haven't dropped below ninth or tenth all season and it would be a great shame if we did now. Forty-five points with five games to go is a good position for a club with our size, our stature.

"The way the chairman runs the club is good. He keeps it on an even keel and doesn't overstretch. It is a big compliment to the players that they've been in the top half of the table all season and we don't want that to drift away.

"We want to finish in the top half and we want to finish well. The 50-point target is still there for us."

Clarke explained that midfielder Claudio Jacob was withdrawn at half-time of Saturday's draw against Newcastle, so the side could become more direct in their search for an equaliser.

He was also satisfied that the comeback underlined the side's capacity to play in more than one style.

"If we are allowed to play, we can pass the ball," he said. "We've shown that before but sometimes you have to be a little more direct, which we were in the second half. We got the ball forward quicker.

"I didn't think Claudio was our worst midfielder in the first half. He did OK for us. I just felt the change was required. We needed three offensive midfield players and I gave Chris Brunt the biggest responsibility of playing behind the other two.

"I've mentioned before about Claudio. He has had a few injuries and the second half of the season hasn't been quite as good for him. But he has still had a great first season."


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