Clarke: Bad run must stop now

BY foxsports • December 14, 2012

Midfielder Fraser Aird could return for Rangers in the Irn-Bru Third Division clash with Montrose after time out with a fractured thumb.

Ross Perry returned to training on Friday after hernia surgery but is not ready, while Kane Hemmings is still building up his fitness after a knee injury.

Defenders Emilson Cribari (calf) and Sebastien Faure (both hernia) remain on the sidelines and manager Ally McCoist will have to decide whether to risk David Templeton on the artificial pitch at Links Park weeks after the player returned from an ankle injury sustained on a similar surface at Annan.

Deadman was accused by Shrimpers fans of raising two fingers in their direction while appearing to rub the back of his head during the goalless draw at Fleetwood in League Two last Saturday.

The alleged incident at the Highbury Stadium came midway through the first half while the match official was standing over striker Britt Assombalonga as he received treatment from the club's physio.

But an FA statement read: "Following an allegation that referee Darren Deadman made an offensive gesture at supporters during the League Two match between Fleetwood Town and Southend United on December 8 2012, The FA reviewed video footage and was satisfied that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim.

"Therefore, The FA can confirm that no action is required."

Caulker will miss the England Under-21 team's Euro 2013 games against Italy and Norway after UEFA found him guilty of improper conduct for his actions during a post-match brawl against Serbia in October.

European football's governing body have been criticised for banning Caulker and his team-mate Thomas Ince, and for fining the Serbian FA ?65,000 - some ?15,000 less than was handed out to Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's logo on his underpants during Euro 2012.

The Tottenham manager concedes that his defender is extremely unhappy with UEFA's action against him.

"I spoke to the player and he is obviously very disappointed," Villas-Boas told a press conference.

"It is difficult to take after (what) I heard from my players - from Danny [Rose], from Steven, from Adam Smith - from the situation they went through to see that the outcome is this one.

"I imagine the FA will appeal. I think they are entitled to do it. They have shown disappointment with the decision and I think they are going to take it forward in various different ways which I think should include trying to put right what is wrong in Steven's sanction."

Villas-Boas has included Caulker in his squad for Sunday's home game against Swansea.

The Spurs boss revealed good news from the treatment room today, declaring that Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson, Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto all have a chance of playing against the Welshman.

Bale has been absent since suffering a hamstring injury against Fulham two weeks ago.

In that match the winger earned his fourth yellow card of the calendar year for simulation.

Villas-Boas reckons the Welshman's tag as a diver is unfair, and he said as much to referee Andre Marriner when he visited the club's training ground last Tuesday in a pre-planned visit.

"We received the visit of the referee this past week," Villas-Boas said.

"Gareth and I spoke with the referee about this situation.

"Gareth has gone through a difficult time in his career. He has had potentially-career threatening injuries and sometimes for the pace that he goes at it looks like a dive from the player when he is actually protecting himself.

"It's a tag that if he has gained it is unfair. But it doesn't bother him in any way shape or form."

Villas-Boas may decide to start Bale on the bench given the busy festive period is around the corner, while Assou-Ekotto and Parker also look set to be named as substitutes.

Parker, last term's Tottenham player of the season, has not played for Spurs in this campaign due to an Achilles injury he suffered at Euro 2012 and Assou-Ekotto has been sidelined since September with a knee injury.

"Both of them are making good progress with the team," Villas-Boas said.

"Scott I think is slightly ahead of Benoit at the moment, but both of them could be involved, or not.

"You have to bear in mind that their absence was long so they are picking up on their fitness levels."

Villas-Boas admits Parker's leadership skills will come in useful, particularly as Tottenham have been prone to conceding crucial late goals throughout the season.

It is hard to see where Villas-Boas will fit Parker into his team given the excellent form of Sandro and Mousa Dembele, but the Portuguese is happy to have the England midfielder back.

"He's been out for so long and he's such an important player for us," the 35-year-old said.

"He was amazing last season, so we've been really patient with the situation.

"We're glad to have him back, it was wonderful to see him out there on the (training) pitch.

"He offers other possibilities. It's good to have him on our side and good to finally count on him."

Clarke has tried to downplay the significance of Albion losing three games in succession after climbing to third in the table last month.

But the former West Ham number two knows the significance of the Baggies recapturing the winning habit sooner rather than later ahead of Sunday's tough encounter with the Hammers at The Hawthorns.

Clarke said: "I don't think it is a massive test. The test for me as a number one came when I walked into this job in the summer.

"That was the big test. We started well this season and, if you took out the defeats we've had and spread them over a course of the season, everyone would be saying we are doing fantastic.

"That's the line I tend to stick with. If I had been offered the top six in mid-December, I would have been pleased with the points tally we've got.

"But it is up to us to make sure the bad run stops now and we start to pick up more points.

"The players this week have been positive, not dwelling on the three defeats. They are looking forward to the run of games coming up.

"It would have been nice if we could have kept the good run going a little longer, but we didn't, and we have to make sure the next run starts on Sunday.

"We know we've lost the last three because everyone keeps telling us, but we are not going to forget that anyway. We know we have to address it this weekend."

Clarke insists he enjoyed his time as number two to Gianfranco Zola with the Hammers despite the pair being sacked at the end of the 2009-10 season.

He is also a big admirer of West Ham boss Sam Allardyce and believes it is unfair to stereotype the style of football his teams have produced during his managerial career.

Clarke said: "It is a good club, I enjoyed my experience there and it's good to see them doing well in the Premier League.

"They have passionate fans who care about their team, they try to play football the right way.

"I don't care what anyone says about Sam and his teams, he always tries to play football the right way.

"They try to be positive, they try to get balls in the box, they try to score goals, and for me that is always the right way to play football."

Clarke added: "You can become stereotyped if you like and there is a little bit of that with Sam.

"He has got good football players in that team. I've watched a number of their games this season and they play good football when they are allowed to play good football.

"If it becomes a scrap then they are a team that can stand up for a scrap as well. Whatever type of game it is at the weekend, West Ham will be ready for it.

"But I can assure West Ham we will be ready for it as well."

Clarke admits he has a lengthy injury list to worry about ahead of Sunday's game including keeper Ben Foster (groin), midfielder Claudio Yacob (hamstring) and Liam Ridgewell (hamstring).

He said: "I've got a number of issues. There are a number of injury doubts for the game this weekend, more than you guys have got noted down.

"It is a test of the squad strength but it is something I don't shy away from because I've got a good squad and it will certainly be tested over the next four or five weeks."


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