Clarke upbeat despite blip

PA Sport

West Brom manager Steve Clarke insists his side's confidence has not been dented by successive defeats and that their impressive start to the season is earning them more respect from opponents.

The Baggies collected 14 points from their opening seven Barclays Premier League matches to give Clarke an impressive baptism to his first managerial role. But they have since suffered injury-time setbacks against Manchester City and then Newcastle.

"We have told them that if they continue to play as they have against two really good teams, and as long as the performance levels stays the same, then the results will follow," Clarke said.

When asked if teams were showing Albion more respect, Clarke said: "I think that is probably right. People have looked at the start we've had.

"Newcastle paid us a big compliment last week when they matched us up and went system for system. They looked at us, felt we could cause them a problem and they tried to nullify that.

"They will be delighted it worked for them because they got the result but we got the performance and the confidence will not have been affected."

Clarke has plenty of respect for Saints and their manager Nigel Adkins, who has led the club to successive promotions, despite a difficult start to the campaign.

"Nigel has had two successive promotions and done a great job for the club," he said. "Unfortunately the game now is a results-driven industry and you don't get as long sometimes as you deserve to get.

"But Southampton have had some good performances. I've seen them on a number of occasions this season."

West Brom skipper Chris Brunt and defender Billy Jones have recovered from hamstring and knee injuries respectively and are in contention to face the Saints. Clarke is also optimistic striker Shane Long will have shaken off the hamstring injury which led to his non-inclusion in the Republic of Ireland squad for the forthcoming friendly with Greece.

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