Premier League

Clarke hails under-the-radar buys

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Sat, 09 Mar 2013 09:31:00

West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku is determined to shun the party lifestyle and be a role model to young fans.

The 19-year-old is currently enjoying a season-long loan-spell at the Hawthorns having scored 12 goals in 28 appearances, including three in his last two games.

The Belgium international has revealed he would much rather spend his time away from football at home than out in nightclubs.

"I don't want to be known as 'Romelu, the guy who leaves the nightclub and sprays Champagne over everyone'," former Anderlecht player Lukaku told the Birmingham Mail.

"Some do and that's fun for them but you have little children looking up to you and being an example to the youth and you should stick to that.

"I don't want to spend all my time focusing on going out or girls. I have a younger brother who looks up to me. I'm his prime example, then there's the rest of the family.

"I'm always at home. I wake up at 8am and the first thing I do is pray. Then I call my mum to ask if everything is okay. I ask her if she needs something and then I call my dad.

"Then I go to training, finish my training, and call my parents again. Then I go home.

"People say it's boring, yes, but I've always done it like that. You don't focus on other things because you have duties.

"Everything should give way to become successful, and to be recognised as a good soccer player but also as a good person."

Lukaku admitted he does not know where his future lies next season, although he would be open to the idea of returning to West Brom on loan.

"I just hope I end this season as well as possible," he added. "Then we'll see what happens. I also need to think about the national team and not of myself.

"So if I'm on loan for another year then, okay, good. That wouldn't be a bad thing. Playing for Chelsea is my final goal but I'm realistic, next season I'm 20 years old."

United have spent the last few days licking their wounds after the shattering disappointed of European failure.

Ferguson is still furious at the manner of his side's defeat, and the controversial decision to send Nani off, which changed the entire course of a game he felt United were comfortable in.

But he knows life goes on. And for the Red Devils that means a meeting with Chelsea, against whom they have already had two titanic contests this season.

"We have a job to do on Sunday and I think we'll do that okay," said Ferguson.

"We've gone through this procedure many times.

"When you're at a club for a long time, there are always damp moments and dark days.

"In general we recover very well and we'll do that again."

Sunday's quarter-final will be the first time United have faced Chelsea since Ferguson's old rival Rafael Benitez took charge.

The Manchester United manager's irritation with Benitez goes back to the Spaniard's days at Liverpool and that infamous 'It's a fact' rant in 2009, when he claimed Ferguson manipulated referees and received preferential treatment from the Football Association.

Ferguson has never forgotten the attack and when Benitez turned up at Chelsea following the dismissal of Roberto di Matteo earlier this season, he labelled the former Valencia boss as "very lucky" for being given the chance to take over two Champions League-winning teams, having also replaced Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan.

It has not proved so lucky for Benitez, who has failed to win over sceptical Chelsea support, seen lingering title ambitions quashed, crashed out of the Champions League and is now in a desperate scramble to secure a top four berth.

Benitez has railed against the club's hierarchy for naming him an 'interim manager' and he now accepts there is no chance of getting the job on a full-time basis.

It would normally be a situation Ferguson would approach with relish.

Instead, he is taking the softly-softly approach.

"I'm not going to kick anyone when they're lying down," said Ferguson. "It's not my style.

"My concern is Manchester United. What happens at Chelsea doesn't really affect me.

"Chelsea have a terrific record in the FA Cup, probably the best of any team in the last decade.

"It doesn't matter when you play Chelsea or who's in charge, we'll have a hard game."

The Villa manager admits his players are in "an absolute war" in the fight to avoid the drop from the top flight, with a home match against QPR next weekend following on from Saturday's clash at Reading.

It is only just over 30 years since Villa won the European Cup and they are the fifth most successful club in the Premier League in terms of points accrued since its formation.

The likes of Reading and Southampton were amongst the favourites with bookmakers last summer to make an instant return to the Championship.

But demotion for Villa would cause shock waves similar to when Newcastle went down four years ago.

When asked if there is added pressure, Lambert said: "I think there is a touch of that because of the size of the club and the history.

"But you have to embrace that and not be frightened by it. I don't think you can hide behind it. You have to ready for it.

"I think as time goes on it (the pressure) gets cranked up. But it's something you have to thrive on and not let it frighten you.

"You have to be ready for it. I don't wilt under it, I meet it head on.

"Every game is massive in this league, it's huge, and you can stretch that back to the first day of the season.

"You have to try to win more games than not. They are huge games for us (against Reading and QPR), no-one can shy from that

"But they are games we go into with confidence that we can win them.

"We probably need to win four more games but everyone else will be saying the same. There's still 30 points to play for."

Lambert admits he had to scrap and fight to make his reputation in the game before becoming a European Cup winner with Borussia Dortmund and hopes the Villa players have the same attitude,

The Scot said: "I've had major disappointments as a player. Until I went to Germany I was playing hobby football. When I went to Germany, it became a real job.

"I had to up roots, take the bull by the horns. I didn't have a contract, I didn't have anywhere to go. That's why I went to Dortmund. I had to go on trial.

"I am not just sat here having been born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Everything I have always had to earn.

"I wouldn't put that pressure on them (the players). They are giving us everything they have anyway. But you don't realise what you've got until it's not there.

"That's one thing I would say. You have to earn the right in football. It doesn't get given to you - even the top players and top managers.

"You have to appreciate what you have here. It is an unbelievable place to work. A lot of them have been brought through the ranks so they don't know any differently.

"The only thing they probably know is they are in absolute war now and you have to see it through. They are going to have to fight for every point."

Lambert has spoken with acting skipper Ciaran Clark after his error gifted Manchester City the winner at Villa Park on Monday.

He said: "Ciaran is alright. I spoke to him after the game on Tuesday. I had a chat with him but he's been great for us. He'll be better for it in a stupid, roundabout way.

"It would be different if he was going around making mistake after mistake.

"He tried something because his confidence was extremely high with the way the game was going, but I'm pretty sure he won't try anything like that again."

The duo will be up against each other in Saturday's Hawthorns clash between the clubs.

Baggies head coach Clarke signed Argentina international Yacob on a free transfer from Racing Club on the evidence of DVDS presented to him by the then sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth.

His Swansea counterpart Michael Laudrup brought in Michu from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano for ?2million and he has been impressive during his first campaign at the Liberty Stadium.

Clarke said: "It's difficult to find a player now that nobody knows about and nobody has got.

"To be fair to Michael Laudrup at Swansea, he obviously has a good grasp of the Spanish market because he's worked there before.

"He would know the capabilities of a player like Michu. It has worked out for him.

"His use of the Spanish market last summer was excellent. They've brought in some really good players from Spain.

"With us, when you spend the amount of money we did on Yacob, and he turns out to be as good a player as he is for the team, that's great.

"Normally a player of the type of Claudio is a players' player, a manager's player or a coaches' player and doesn't really stand out. He just does his job for the team.

"But in doing the job for our team, he has also managed to stand out as being exceptionally good at it. I think he's been tremendous and a big, big bonus for us this season."

Clarke admitted: "I hadn't seen him but either on my first or second day here, I got given a pile of DVDs.

"I had asked for a defensive-type midfield player and Dan (Ashworth) gave me a pile of DVDs with three or four different players.

"I went through them all and thought 'I quite like that one' and we managed to get him in.

"I didn't know him. He was just a name. He didn't play for the last four months of his contract because the club knew he was running it down so it was all on DVDs."

Clarke has seen Yacob start to get to grips with the English language since arriving at the Baggies.

He said: "His English is much-improved, although I'm not sure he understands my Scottish!

"I've had one or two decent conversations with him recently and his character is good.

"He's a little bit like you see on the pitch, quiet, determined. Sometimes I get the feeling he's got more to say but he doesn't quite trust his words yet. I think he will grow into himself."

Clarke has ruled out winger Jerome Thomas moving to Blackburn on loan but is content to allow England Under-21 defender Craig Dawson to remain with Bolton for the rest of the season.

He said: "I had two players unavailable last weekend at Chelsea. One (Goran Popov) was suspended, one (Romelu Lukaku) couldn't play against his parent club. I had Chris Brunt injured and a 16-year-old (Isaiah Brown) on the bench.

"That situation in itself answers the question about Jerome going out. I can't let anyone go. I haven't got a big squad of senior players."

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