West Brom manager Steve Clarke has warned Romelu Lukaku he must fight for his place at the Hawthorns after the high-profile loan signing bemoaned a lack of playing time at Chelsea.
The 19-year-old Belgium international arrived at Stamford Bridge for a reported £18million from Anderlecht a year ago yet despite his lucrative transfer, barely featured for the Blues last season. Lukaku recently grabbed the chance to prove himself in the Barclays Premier League by making a season-long loan switch to Albion.
Clarke has warned that Lukaku must earn his place on merit with fellow strikers Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Markus Rosenberg also vying for places. He said: "He's one of a number of strikers competing for a place in my team and I'm hoping that at the end of this year he's not complaining about anything."
"He's certainly hungry, I know that," said the Scot, who is in his first permanent managerial post.
Lukaku came from the bench to score in Belgium's 4-2 win over rivals Holland on Wednesday night and Clarke was encouraged by reviews of his contribution.
"We had somebody there watching him and had good reports," he said. "He came on, did very well, scored the goal and helped to turn the game in the favour of Belgium. It's good when your players do well."
Meanwhile, West Brom reportedly face a battle to hold onto director of football Dan Ashworth with the Football Association strongly linked with a move to make him their new technical director. Clarke, who has worked closely with the former Norwich player since arriving this summer, hopes Ashworth remains at the club.
"My relationship with Dan has worked really well," he said. "I think everybody knows the good work he does here. He takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders and has certainly made this job much much easier for me to settle into.
"I speak to Dan every day and he hasn't given me any indication that he's got his mind on other things, he's focused only on the job here at the Albion.
"If that changes I'm sure Dan will let me know and when he does that I'll let you know. But at the moment there's nothing to indicate that Dan won't be here long-term."
- Steve Clarke
- Romelu Lukaku