English League 1

Ellington hints at Crewe stay

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Thu, 14 Mar 2013 17:11:00

Motherwell pair Shaun Hutchinson and Chris Humphrey are available for the Scottish Premier League clash with Hibernian on Friday night.

Defender Hutchinson was suspended for the goalless draw with Aberdeen last weekend, while midfielder Humphrey missed the Pittodrie clash out with a knock.

Manager Stuart McCall will again be without defender Fraser Kerr as his team look to consolidate second place in the table with a win.

Hibernian team news to follow ...

The Baggies goalkeeper recently made himself available for selection for the Three Lions having withdrawn from contention two years ago.

Foster had found himself restricted to the fringes of the squad before citing injury complications and family reasons for his decision to drop out after the 29-year-old had earned five caps.

However, with his fitness and form stronger than ever, Foster is back in the picture and was today recalled by Roy Hodgson for England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

"We're all delighted for Ben," said Clarke. "He obviously made himself available for selection and he explained his reasons for pulling out initially.

"It's good. I like my players to be involved for their countries because I think it's a great honour. It was a disappointment for me that I only got to represent Scotland six times at senior level. So for the players who do get selected to play for their country, it's great.

"I'm sure he'll do well."

Foster missed several games earlier this season with a niggling groin injury but is currently in fine form having taken his time to recover.

"We think, touch wood, that Ben is in a good place physically now," said Clarke, who succeeded England coach Hodgson at The Hawthorns last summer.

"He's done a lot of work with the fitness and conditioning staff. He obviously feels in a really good place fitness-wise and I think that's important.

"I think if he'd felt there were any fitness issues, he wouldn't have come back. So the fact he's come back tells you he's in a good place physically.

"I think the fact he had two procedures earlier in the season - which went on a little bit longer than they should have done and it too him a bit longer to recover - it actually seems to have freed him up a little bit and made him more comfortable in himself. That's important, and I think you can see that in his recent performances."

Albion's superb form in the first half of this season saw them become realistic contenders for European qualification via the Premier League heading into Christmas.

However, a dreadful run of results in January saw their hopes fade and though their form has picked up recently to sit them in eighth place with 43 points, the Europa League is now a distant possibility.

The FA Cup draw last weekend means they must finish fifth to qualify, needing to overhaul the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.

"I did say there was no point us talking about European football because the Europa League places would only come down to fifth in the league and that's what has unfolded," Clarke said.

"There are too many ifs and buts. For us it's just a matter of building on the points total we've got and we've set the players a little target of getting to 50. Hopefully we can reach that quickly and still give ourselves a few games to get beyond that.

"I would love to be involved in European competition. I think you have to be as ambitious as you can be.

"You want to be successful in every competition you enter. But it's also the case that if we can break 50 points that would also be successful."

The 31-year-old striker penned a deal until the end of the season earlier this month after scoring four goals in as many games for the Railwaymen's second string.

Ellington was an unused substitute during last weekend's 2-1 win over Colchester and will hope for a debut when Shrewsbury visit Gresty Road on Saturday.

"We are just taking each stage as it comes at the moment," he told the club's official website. "I have signed until the end of the season and we'll see how it goes.

"I know the club likes to bring through the young players but if I can fit into that and help the squad in any way then staying longer could happen.

"It is going to be very exciting. We have a lot of teams fighting for promotion and others down at the bottom so it will be tough. And we have the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final to look forward to.

"If we can get into the play-offs, we can go up again, so we have to work for every point.

"I am at a good level now and my sharpness is improving with each game and training session. I can feel myself creating chances for myself and others and I know there is more to come."

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