Football - Clarke hails Anelka influence

West Brom boss Steve Clarke insists there is "no downside" to having Nicolas Anelka within his squad, describing the striker as a popular member of the group.

PA Sport Report

Clarke signed Anelka, who had previously been a free agent, in July and the 34-year-old ex-France international has scored seven pre-season goals since then.

In the past Anelka has been labelled 'Le Sulk', with questions being raised about his temperament.

But regarding that, Clarke - speaking today ahead of his side's 2013-14 Barclays Premier League opener against Southampton at home on Saturday - said: "There is no downside with Nicolas.

"That ('Le Sulk') is an image that is portrayed in the press, but I find him to be a very engaging character, a very good person and he has been great in the group here.

"He has come in and settled well. He is already a favourite among the players."

Clarke will be without Romelu Lukaku this season after the Belgium frontman, scorer of 17 goals for Albion while on loan from Chelsea last term, returned to his parent club.

It is an absence that needed addressing and while Clarke has emphasised Anelka's capacity for playmaker duties, he also believes the former Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea man still very much has it in him to score goals in the Premier League.

Clarke is also hoping for goals this term from Matej Vydra, the striker whose season-long loan switch to the Baggies from Udinese was confirmed this week.

The 21-year-old Czech Republic international scored 22 times in the Championship last term on loan at Watford, and was named the division's player of the year.

On Vydra, Clarke said: "He looks like a natural finisher.

"We hope, with the players he will have around him here, that he can get the same number of chances in the Premier League. I think when he gets the chances, he will take them."

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