sport

Baggies are worthy scalp - Clarke

Steve Clarke believes West Bromwich Albion's flying start to the season means they have lost the element of surprise.

Clarke believes the Baggies are now regarded as a worthy scalp to collect by other teams.

Albion lie fifth in the Premier League after collecting 26 points from their opening 15 matches but the reasons for their success are coming under increasing scrutiny.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis admitted he concentrated his tactics on stopping Albion's ability to counter-attack effectively during the Potters' 1-0 win at The Hawthorns on Saturday.

West Brom boss Clarke said: "We have shown we are a good Premier League team, worthy of being taken seriously - but that is a double-edged sword.

"While establishing ourselves in this league and beyond that in the top half of it, are the goals that we strive to achieve, but we are no longer flying under the radar.

"Not only are teams going to be increasingly aware of us, they will be especially keen to try to stop us in our tracks because we will now be seen as a scalp.

"That is the kind of pressure that goes with doing well but it's a nice sort of pressure than that which comes with struggling at the wrong end of the division."

Clarke played down ambitions of qualifying for Europe and knows the pressure will only increase during the second half of the season.

He said: "Other people are talking about European football but the time for thinking about that will be next May.

"What has served us well so far has been our ability to keep our feet on the ground, our humility, togetherness as a group, the impressive appetite for working harder and harder for the cause.

"Those appetites will be increasingly important as the season goes on if we hope to continue to get good results.

"The pressure only increases as you go through a season and the challenges become greater as targets come into focus."

Clarke has been told funds are available during January to help try to sustain West Brom's strong first half of the season.

Albion could lose striker Peter Odemwingie and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu in the new year to the African Nations Cup with Nigeria and DR Congo respectively.

But Clarke has already spoken with Albion sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth about possible replacements.

He said: "There's a possibility we lose a couple of players to the African Nations Cup, we could lose players to injury, but when we get closer to the end of the month we'll start to make decisions.

"I haven't really discussed with the chairman (Jeremy Peace) about the way forward in January. That's why we have a technical director (Ashworth).

"He's the buffer. We have spoken about what we might need to do in January.

"If the chairman, Dan and I decide we need to strengthen the squad then we can do that. Is there money there? Yes I think it is."