• Premier League

Clarke: Odemwingie reintegration is underway

ESPN staff
February 23, 2013 « Samba: I'll stop Van Persie | Chartbeat test »
Peter Odemwingie has not featured for West Brom since he embarrassingly failed to seal a January move to QPR © PA Photos
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West Brom boss Steve Clarke insists Peter Odemwingie is on the way to re-establishing himself as a part of the Baggies squad, though he refused to confirm if the controversial Nigerian would feature against Sunderland on Saturday.

Clarke says Odemwingie, 25, has impressed the West Brom camp since being told he must knuckle down in the wake of his extraordinary behaviour during the January transfer window.

"They are not a group of players who would tolerate players not working properly and I'm not a coach who would accept that," Clarke said.

"We demand high standards in training and then you have a much better chance of high standards at the weekend. Peter's attitude has been as good as it was before January. His fitness was good enough but I chose not to use him at Liverpool.

"I suppose us winning there bought us some breathing space and saw to it that everybody could calm down a little. It's important that clubs aren't too reliant on one individual."

Odemwingie, who drove himself to QPR on deadline day in preparation for transfer talks for which he had not been given permission, had already infuriated Albion with a host of critical tweets. He has since been linked with a loan move to Crystal Palace but Clarke added: "Come on, Peter isn't a Championship player. That's all I would say on that."

The club have been left to deny they are thinking of barring their players from using social media, although Clarke, who attended a supporters' question-and-answer night on Thursday, recognises that some fans will find it hard to let Odemwingie back into their affections.

"We try to treat all our players like adults and don't like to ban them from using Twitter," he said. "Ninety nine per cent of them use it very well. I've said before…..I understand some supporters will find it difficult to forgive him but we always ask the supporters to support the team.

"He has a big contribution to make and his ability is without question. We hope he still has a part to play in the coming matches. There's no problem with him. Everything's good here. They all have to make a contribution and we are trying to finish the season as high in the table as possible.

"They're an experienced group here, with strong characters. They know what's required and there will always be ups and downs. It's nice to have a connection with supporters and give and hear some honest opinions."

Odemwingie scored twice in last season's 4-0 home victory over Sunderland and hit the only goal in the previous season's Hawthorns clash. While Clarke has kept mum on whether he will disturb the 18 on duty for the outstanding win at Liverpool by finding a place for him, he has been delighted with the form of Chris Brunt.

The skipper found himself being booed when he was taken off in the New Year's Day home defeat against Fulham but has bounced back and made the side's opening goal at Anfield for Gareth McAuley. And the head coach believes fitness problems early in the season may have contributed to a loss of effectiveness.

"He finished last season with an injury and was desperate to get back," he explained. "He started too early and ended up re-injuring himself. In the first part of the season, he went from injury to injury and couldn't quite get his fitness. He likes to play game after game after game. He gets his fitness up and his form up that way.

"In the last few months, his contribution for the team has been good. He has a terrific record of assists. His dead-ball delivery is excellent and we have scored a lot of goals from Chris's deliveries. He is an important part of the team and the squad.

"He's a sensible lad. He wasn't happy with the reaction of the crowd that day against Fulham. None of us were. But it is an incident that is past - we have all moved on from it. He understood that the crowd were frustrated. He didn't take it too personally. He just knuckled down and continues to produce good performances at the club, as he has done over the last five or six years.

"I don't think you need to be really vocal or demonstrative to be a good captain. You have to be a good person. I think if you are a good person, people will respect you - and Chris is a good person."

Of the player's role in the team, Clarke said: "He played in the middle when we were short of players to play there for us. I think eventually that could be his position. He has got enough energy to play wide as well and he gets up and down the line. He gives good balance to the team. It is good to have left-footed players on the right or left side of the pitch to balance the team. I enjoy that as a coach. Chris can play any position really. He has got good ability. He has even played at left-back before.

"When you are a player of good ability, you can play in any position. Roy [Hodgson] used him quite a lot off the right, which you can see is a good tactic because he has a strong left foot and he is able to have shots at goal with his left foot."

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