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May 6, 2013

Clarke: Odemwingie could play again

Steve Clarke insists Peter Odemwingie may still play again for West Bromwich Albion despite the latest downturn in the relationship between player and club.

The Nigerian international was poised to go on as a substitute when he warmed up along the touchline in the second half of Saturday's 3-2 home defeat against Wigan.

But an exchange with a fan in the stands curtailed his loosening-up routine and prompted what was already a murmuring of disapproval against his introduction to become a noisy, abusive chant.

The Hawthorns head coach sent on James Morrison and Jerome Thomas instead and says: "I heard the crowd reaction when Peter went to warm up but I was watching the game.

"I'd said to Jerome, Peter and James to get warmed up. I knew I was going to make two changes, as Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku looked tired. I was preparing for the changes and, if I'm honest, the reaction of the crowd made me go with Jerome and James.

"Can Peter play here again? Yes, he can because we've got Man United here in the last home game. My squad is small and if I pick up injuries again before the end of the season, then of course he can play. He's one of my players and I have to use the squad as wisely as I can."

What does seem certain, though, is that it would be in the best interests of all parties to have a parting of the ways in the summer.

Odemwingie has represented trouble for most of Albion's pleasing season, notably when he drove to Loftus Road during the last day of the January transfer window, hoping for a move that never materialised.

He has also infuriated the club with his repeated loose-cannon tweeting and has started only one game in 2013 - when he scored in the comeback at home to Aston Villa in mid-January.

Speaking of what has been described as a 'toxic' relationship, Clarke added: "It is something we will have to consider at the end of the season.

"For now, we have to run with the squad we've got. I've not any cards to pull out of the hat. The squad is what I've got and we have to work with that squad.

"Peter's future is a decision for us all to sit down about at the end of the season and decide the best way forward for the club. I just heard the crowd reaction and told James and Jerome to get ready. It probably influenced my decision not to put Peter on the pitch."

Albion, having lost to one of the FA Cup finalists, play the other tomorrow (Tues) when they head to Manchester City for a rearranged game.

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