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Apr 25, 2013

Lukaku grateful to West Brom

Romelu Lukaku believes he may not have been on the shortlist for the PFA's Young Player of the Year award without Steve Clarke and his West Bromwich Albion backroom staff.

The Belgium international feels he has been transformed as a player during his season-long loan spell with Albion, finally allowing him to display the kind of talent Chelsea hoped they were signing for £18 million from Anderlecht in 2011.

The 19-year-old has grabbed 13 Premier League goals this season during an impressive spell at The Hawthorns after making just eight appearances for Chelsea since moving to Stamford Bridge and he believes the dramatic improvement is down to the techniques of Clarke and assistant head coaches Kevin Keen and Keith Downing.

"I've become a far better player technically and physically and physically next year I think I will be better because I didn't know how to use my body or protect my body before," he said.

"Now I know how defenders in this league play and I still need to keep learning. I think this season is the first step to something great. My career is all up to me, it's up to me to work hard and improve my qualities. I think, as a striker, I'm now really convinced I can score in different ways – right foot, left foot and headers.

"Steve Clarke challenges me all the time, and I like challenges. Sometimes when I'm on the side winning in training he'll swap me to the losing side and then it's up to me to help the losing side win. When I've had one or two bad games in a row he comes to me and tells me to show a reaction.

"He is a very challenging head coach. You play football to have challenges and I like difficult challenges. I don't like to walk on the easy path. I want to have difficulties sometimes because if you come out of difficulties you can react better."

Lukaku also believes he would not be on the PFA shortlist if it was not for the backing he has received from the rest of the Albion squad this season. At Sunday's awards ceremony he will be up against Tottenham's Gareth Bale, Aston Villa's Christian Benteke, Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Manchester United's Danny Welbeck and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere.

"To be there in the list is a dream come true" he said. "I never expected it this early in my career. Everything that happens in my career seems to happen so fast - and I'm getting used to it," he said.

"I'm very happy. For me, it means I'm having a good season. It's great news. It's recognition for the work I've put in but also recognition for my team-mates who have helped me to do it.

"Without your team-mates you are not anything so I have to thank my team-mates and the coaching staff who have helped me improve a lot week in, week out.

"I'm very happy and my parents and brother are very proud. Hopefully I can win it. But if not this year, hopefully I can in years to come."

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