Clarke says Reds should aim higher
West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke has turned up the heat before his Hawthorns debut on Saturday by insisting that visitors Liverpool have to make themselves top-four contenders.
Clarke, who had worked alongside Kenny Dalglish at Anfield, was surprised to hear that the Reds' American owners have not demanded a Champions League placing.
"They have said top four is not imperative for the current campaign," he said. "I don't believe that. A club like Liverpool have to be challenging for the top four. I don't think the club or the fans can expect anything less."
Clarke claims he and Dalglish were well on target to deliver on that target had they stayed in situ on Merseyside.
"Kenny and I went in at a difficult time," he added. "We stabilised the club. We didn't envisage not being there this season and we were pretty sure Liverpool would be in the top four. We agreed that was realistic for this season.
"The ultimate benchmark is the Premier League and we came a bit short, but when you look at the team we were assembling... we reached two cup finals and that's not easy. We won the Carling Cup and beat Manchester City over two fantastic games in the semi-final. If you are reaching finals, you have a team who can compete.
"As soon as the players realised they weren't managing to get to the top four, they got a bit disappointed at not being in the Champions League and already knew they were in the Europa League."
Clarke, who has also installed former Anfield backroom colleague Kevin Keen in his coaching team at The Hawthorns, has shed light for the first time on how he came to be available to Albion early in the close season.
He has revealed that he was actually dismissed in the wake of Dalglish's departure at the end of 2011-12.
"I got sacked by Liverpool," he said. "That's part and parcel of football. I had a chat with Brendan Rodgers after Kenny had left. I didn't go at the same time as Kenny. He (Brendan) said he was one of the candidates and he said: 'Don't do anything silly. Don't walk away. Maybe we can work together'.
"Then he pulled out of the race, as we know - then he was back in it again. But the owners obviously wanted to start with fresh people. I was fortunate there were two or three jobs in the Premier League and I managed to get this one."
Clarke and Rodgers worked together at Chelsea but did not meet when Clarke scouted Liverpool's recent Europa League victory over Gomel at Anfield.