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Clarke has no hard feelings over Hammers axe

Steve Clarke during his time as West Ham United assistant manager. Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA Steve Clarke during his time as West Ham United assistant manager. Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA

Saturday, December 15, 2012
1:30 PM

West Brom boss Steve Clarke insists he bears no grudges against West Ham - despite being sacked as number two along with manager Gianfranco Zola - ahead of Sunday’s home clash with the Hammers.

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The duo managed to keep the Hammers in the top flight but were still dismissed in May 2010 by new owners David Sullivan and David Gold, to be replaced by Avram Grant.

But Clarke is philosophical about being axed and insists the credit crunch was a big factor in why he and Zola lost their jobs.

Clarke said: “The new owners came in and assessed what they thought they had to do at the club. They made that decision and that’s the owners’ job.

“They have to decide what is the best way forward for their club, and that’s what Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold did at the time.

“What happened the next season is ifs and buts. If you look at it, though, we didn’t make any progress.

“The year before we’d finished in the top 10. The second season was a lot more difficult but there were a lot of extenuating circumstances at West Ham.”

Clarke added: “When I first went into that job it was on the promise that we’d always have money to spend in the transfer windows and we were going to push on into the top six.

“But within a fortnight of being in the club, the credit crunch collapse happened. The then Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson’s bank went bust.

“The circumstances changed completely. There was a gradual erosion of the squad and it was an achievement just to keep West Ham in the Premier League that year.”

Clarke still believes his time at Upton Park was a valuable learning curve in his career.

He said: “I’ve learned lessons from every job I’ve been at. The West Ham job was good because I’d come out of Chelsea where success was part and parcel of the season.

“Then I went to a club where it was more difficult, and you had to find different ways to motivate players.

“You had to find different ways to get results on a Saturday, which is what we were judged on.”

There was a perception in some quarters that Clarke was not tough enough for the demands of the role and was “too nice”.

But he claimed: “I’ve never actually been called too nice before. Obviously the owners didn’t know me too well.

“I think people who know me realise there’s an edge there if it needs to be there.

“It doesn’t mean to say you have to go around being a nasty guy all the time to get that image.

“If I need to have an edge, I can have an edge.”

Clarke admits that side of his character has seldom been seen during the current campaign given the Baggies’ fine form.

He said: “If we’d lost 10 games this season, there might be more of an edge about me.

“I don’t see why I should be angry or disappointed with the efforts of this group of players. Hopefully they never see it.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I haven’t shouted at them and had cross words. It happens. In environments, you can lose your temper a bit.”

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