Baggies streak no fluke, says Clarke

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Romelu Lukaku of West Brom celebrates after scoring against Sunderland. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images

London – Before Saturday, the last time West Bromwich Albion had won four top flight matches on the bounce, Bryan Robson was marshalling their midfield and Cyrille Regis was banging the goals in up front.

Margaret Thatcher was British prime minister, best-selling arcade game Pac-Man was released, and 65 nations, led by the United States, boycotted the Moscow Olympics.

That the 2012 vintage matched the exploits of that 1980 side at the weekend with a 4-2 win at Sunderland may surprise casual observers, but not those who have been studying Steve Clarke's team.

Perhaps drawing inspiration from the Latin motto on the town of West Bromwich's coat of arms which translates as 'work conquers all', the Baggies have hustled and harried a number of teams out of their way, their number already including Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea.

Saturday's win at Sunderland bumped them into third place in the Premier League table with 26 points, above the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, and nestled just below the giants of Manchester – United and City.

The unfashionable club from a West Midlands town may perhaps make for incongruous high fliers, but their lofty position is well earned, head coach Clarke says.

“It's certainly not been a lucky start,” Clarke told the club's website. “We've earned every point we've got. You could even say we've been unlucky not to get more points in some games.

“It's been a solid start and we've deserved everything we've got. We're third and we deserve to be there.”

Clarke knows his priorities well, however, and while others may have their heads turned by the chase for Champions League places, the Scot said his priority remained securing Premier League safety for the Baggies.

“The idea is you have to get 40 points. But I never said when we had to get those points. We've made good inroads towards that target,” Clarke said, referring to the tally commonly regarded as enough to preserve a club's top-flight status.

“If we can get 40 points before the end of January, we can reassess things. But the first target is a sensible one and one we will try to deal with.

“We've seen a lot of clubs who have had a lot of points at this stage of the season and gone on to struggle come the end of the season. We hope we have the strength and depth in the squad for that not to happen but we will just keep building from game to game.”

Some fans may draw comfort from the parallel that the last time West Brom won four straight top-flight games, they finished the 1980-81 season in fourth place.

Clarke, though, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground with only 13 matches played.

“You don't get carried away in the Premier League,” he said. “We're still this side of Christmas. There's a lot of games to be played and points to be played for.” – Reuters


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