sport

Axed Clarke's 'deep regret'

Steve Clarke has spoken of his disappointment at being axed as West Brom manager, insisting he had "unfinished business" at the club.

Clarke was sacked on Saturday evening after a fourth successive defeat left the side just two points above the drop zone.

He had guided Albion to eighth in the Premier League last season - their highest top-flight finish for 30 years - and suggested expectations this term had been too high.

In a statement released through the League Managers' Association, Clarke said: "I believe I have unfinished business at West Bromwich Albion Football Club so it is with deep regret that I was relieved of duties as head coach last night.

"I could not have been better prepared for my first job in management after over 14 years' coaching experience learning from some of the great managers in the modern era.

"It was certainly a challenge to succeed Roy Hodgson, having been appointed England manager, after he successfully guided the club to a 10th-place finish in 2011/12, after only securing their Barclays Premier League status the year before.

"It goes without saying that I was extremely proud to have built on that achievement by securing the club's highest ever finish in the Barclays Premier League and for over 30 years in the top flight by finishing 8th in 2012/13.

"Going into this season expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically so, but with it still being only our fourth consecutive season in the top flight, our primary objective had to be to establishing our status in the Barclays Premier League.

"I was, and remain convinced that we were well placed to achieve this aim."

Roberto di Matteo is the bookies' favourite to return for a second spell at The Hawthorns but Sky sources understand club chiefs do not yet have a replacement in mind.