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Thursday, November 15, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: November 16, 10:21 AM UK
Clarke: I could have become Chelsea boss

David Instone

West Brom boss Steve Clarke says there's a chance he could have been in the Chelsea hotseat instead of Roberto Di Matteo if he hadn't left Stamford Bridge in 2008, as the Scot prepares to welcome his former Blues team-mate to The Hawthorns.

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Clarke coach spent around 12 years at Stamford Bridge as a player and then coach, before following a path that has led him to the head coach's role in the Black Country via spells as a No. 2 at West Ham and Liverpool.

Now, before the first clash between West Brom and Chelsea since Albion's 1-0 win in March cost Andre Villas-Boas his job, Clarke insists it was ambition that tempted him out of West London.

"I'm happy to be No. 1 here at the Albion," he said. "I had a great association with Chelsea and nobody can take those good times away from me.

"I could probably still have been there if I'd chosen that path but I decided to take away the safety net and to challenge myself. Whether I'd have got the main job, who knows? It could have happened but I chose a different path."

Clarke's side are fifth in the Premier League three months into his first managerial season but he appreciates the significance of the breakthrough his first English club made under Di Matteo in the spring.

"Winning the Champions League was important for the evolution of Chelsea," he added. "They had proved they could win the domestic prizes and winning the biggest one in Europe was the logical next step.

"If you keep challenging and getting to the later stages of a competition, one of the years you will get there.

"We now have the European champions at home on Saturday and want to be ready for that one; and our fans want us to be ready.

"We're going to work as hard as we can to make it a really different afternoon for Chelsea. That's what we've done every game so far and it has worked quite well.

"I've only been here a short period and it has been great. We know there will be days that aren't so good, so it's important you enjoy your good moments. Supporters can dream if they want but we have to be focused on the job in hand.

"We will try to get whatever success we can. Chelsea have changed the dynamic of their team over the last couple of years but they still have key players in key positions and we are aware of that."

Clarke has confirmed that there's no clause in Romelu Lukaku's loan stay at The Hawthorns to say he can't play against his parent club. But he has repeated the doubts he harbours as to whether Albion could afford to buy him in January or next summer.

The Scot has drawn a veil of secrecy over the nature of 'one or two knocks' he is monitoring towards the end of international week, but is optimistic they will have cleared up anyway by Saturday.

And he is relishing his side's latest attempt to bring down one of the Premier League's big guns.

"It's not dissimilar to when we played Manchester City here," he said. "We lost but we came out of that with higher esteem because we gave them a really tough game. This time we are looking for a more positive result."

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