Former Magpies coach Steve Clarke praises the drive for stability

STEVE Clarke returns to St James’ Park tomorrow afternoon with a ringing endorsement of the Mike Ashley blueprint.

West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke
West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke

STEVE Clarke returns to St James’ Park tomorrow afternoon with a ringing endorsement of the Mike Ashley blueprint.

West Brom boss Clarke, who is a close friend of United assistant boss John Carver, was Ruud Gullit’s number two at Newcastle and took charge for one game as caretaker following the Dutchman’s dismissal.

That happened to be a 5-1 reverse against Manchester United, but he still has fond memories of a city he says “lives and breathes” the beautiful game.

Now manager of Albion, he is making a good fist of his first front-line managerial role – and admits to casting an envious glance at events at St James’ Park.

“I think it is a blueprint for any club with ambition,” he said.

“Every club wants to be successful and, if you are, is it the right thing to go out and sign 20 players and double the size of your squad, or do you try to nurture what you’ve got and bring through some young ones?

“That’s what Newcastle have done and they’ve done it with a good balanced squad and without being crazy in the transfer market, and that’s a good blueprint for a number of clubs who might be in that position in the future.”

Stability used to be an alien concept on Tyneside, but Pardew’s eight-year contract – in alliance with Carver, Andy Woodman and Steve Stone – means it is back in fashion. “To be fair to them when Bobby took over after Ruud they had a period of stability then and they did well,” Clarke said.

“I think they qualified for the Champions League, they got to the semi-final of the Uefa Cup and they lost to Marseille.

“They had reasonable success under Sir Bobby and they came out of that into a period that was a little more rocky and now they’re trying to get that stability back.

“If you can get stability at any football club then it makes it easier for the people who are trying to make the club successful.”

Meanwhile, Clarke has given a vote of confidence to his current squad but warned them not to rest on their laurels after a flying start to the campaign.

Baggies sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth revealed this week there were unlikely to be any additions to the present bunch of players during the January transfer window.

But that is not a concern for Clarke, whose side are lying in sixth spot ahead of tomorrow’s clash on Tyneside after collecting 14 points from their opening eight games.

Clarke said: “I’ve told Dan (Ashworth) and anyone who will listen to me that I’m really happy with the squad I’ve got.

“If I have to go into the second half of the season with that squad, then I will be delighted. Everyone is in a good place. But you know in football as soon as you rest on your laurels, it will come back and bite you.

“We don’t do that. We look to keep pushing and driving ourselves forward to get as many points on the board as quickly as possible.”

Clarke began his coaching career at Newcastle under Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson after ending his playing days at Chelsea, and admits he has retained an affinity with the club.

He said: “I had a great time at Newcastle. It was very early in the career of my development as a coach.

“It was the first two years out of playing. I’ve got some wonderful friends from my time up there. I still keep in touch with them.

“The supporters are fantastic, it is a great football city and I look forward to taking my team up there and giving them a game.

“The club is still driven by a fanatical support, still driven along the lines of a big club.”

Albion won 3-2 at St James’ Park last season and Clarke is looking for his players to bounce back from last weekend’s home setback against Manchester City.

He said: “The players who played last year will know they are capable of going up there and getting a good result for the club.”

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