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Soccer-I had unfinished business at West Brom, says Clarke

Reuters

LONDON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Steve Clarke has expressed his disappointment at being sacked by West Bromwich Albion, saying he had unfinished business at the struggling Premier League side.

Clarke, 50, was dumped following Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Cardiff City, the side's fourth consecutive league defeat which left them 16th in the Premier League table with 15 points.

He led West Brom to a surprise eighth place in his first season in charge last term, but they have only won seven of 34 league matches in 2013 and picked up 31 points in total.

"I believe I have unfinished business at West Bromwich Albion Football Club so it is with deep regret that I was relieved of duties as head coach last night," Clarke, who had been assistant manager at Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool, said in a statement released by the League Managers' Association on Sunday.

"I could not have been better prepared for my first job in management after over 14 years coaching experience learning from some of the great managers in the modern era.

Clarke took over from Roy Hodgson who moved on to become England manager.

"It was certainly a challenge to succeed Roy Hodgson after he successfully guided the club to a tenth place finish in 2011-12, after only securing their Premier League status the year before," Clarke said.

"It goes without saying that I was extremely proud to have built on that achievement by securing the club's highest ever finish in the Premier League and for over 30 years in the top flight by finishing 8th in 2012/13."

West Brom, who sit two points above the relegation zone, have won only once in their last 10 league matches since beating champions Manchester United at Old Trafford in September, and have suffered from the loss of striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored 17 goals last season on-loan from Chelsea.

"Going into this season expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically so, but with it still being only our fourth consecutive season in the top flight, our primary objective had to be to establish our status in the Premier League," the Scot added.

"I was, and remain convinced that we were well placed to achieve this aim."

The club said that they reluctantly made the decision to relieve Clarke of his duties due to their poor form in 2013 and were keen to make a change ahead of the busy Christmas period.

Assistant coach Kevin Keen was also released, with joint assistant head coach Keith Downing taking control of the team until a new manager is in place.

West Brom players took to social media to express their support for Clarke, including midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu.

"Sad day and really sad news to hear about Steve Clarke getting sacked... I feel sorry for the manager, us player are on the pitch but he is the one who's getting the consequences of our bad play, i wish him all the Best for the 'Futur'," he said.

(Reporting by Josh Reich, editing by Ed Osmond)

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