Clarke helped Albion lure Anelka

Friday 5th July 2013 12:35

Steve Clarke: His presence at Albion proved key to Anelka capture

Steve Clarke: His presence at Albion proved key to Anelka capture

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West Brom FanZoner Craig Punfield feels the presence of Steve Clarke played a pivotal role in Albion luring Nicolas Anelka to The Hawthorns.

Two Premier League medals accompanied by 124 Premier League goals, a Champions League winner, three FA Cups, European Championships and Confederations Cup winner. If only my club could attract players of that calibre. Oh, wait...

Thursday night's transfer news left West Brom fans in disbelief of the first signing the club have conjured up this summer in 69-times capped Frenchman, Nicolas Anelka.

It would seem long gone the days that the likes of Craig Beattie, Sherjill MacDonald and Jay Simpson would stumble around the Hawthorns pitch as we watched on helplessly, all in the knowledge that they would not find the back of the net.

I have mentioned in previous pieces how we are showing signs of progression as a club every season, whether that is doing the double over Liverpool or how we were disappointed with the end of our season, but still managed to finish in the top eight.

And this coup for the club is just another indicator of how we are moving forward.

You just would not have seen this purchase happen a couple of years ago. Admittedly Anelka was still one of Chelsea's key men at that time, finishing the 2008-09 season as the Premier League's top goalscorer. But now this kind of player, with a big reputation in the game, recognises that we aren't a club that is a gamble to join.

We have finished in the top 11 for the past three seasons, and although it is still hard for many Albion fans to believe (me included) we are becoming a stable top-flight side, and we should feel we can and should attract a player with such standing in the game.

This deal will also have been a big boost to all at the club after Romelu Lukaku's departure at the end of last season.

We were all wondering where the goals were going to come from and you would hope that a large piece of that goalscoring jigsaw has been filled with the addition of the former Real Madrid man to the squad.

The move could also play a key role in getting Youssouf Mulumbu to sign a new contract this summer. They are both good friends and it is reported the midfielder wanted to see how ambitious the club were going to be this summer - this signing should be a good indicator for the Congolese man.

But, with all this optimism I, as a naturally pessimistic Baggie, must add a word of warning to all this positivity. It would feel wrong not to.

It was 18 months ago that Anelka last played in the Premier League, before jetting off to China to get himself a big paycheque. Since then he moved to Juventus in January, but managed three appearances for the Old Lady, spending the rest of the campaign watching on from the bench.

He is 34 now and hasn't played consistent, top-level football for over a year. I just hope he finds his match fitness quicker in pre-season than Markus Rosenberg managed following his arrival in the Black Country.

Steve Clarke's role in this move also can't be played down; yes we are becoming a stable Premier League side, but I doubt his ex-player would have joined us if his former Chelsea coach was not at the helm.

His contacts with the Stamford Bridge side proved to be priceless last season with the arrival of Lukaku and there has been talk already this summer of getting the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Salomon Kalou and Demba Ba to venture into the Midlands.

It is also well known that the Scotsman has a good relationship with Jose Mourinho, so this arrival could well be only the first of a few players to enter The Hawthorns with Chelsea links.

Who knows, Mourinho might even let us have Eden Hazard for the season if we ask nicely...

By Craig Punfield, FanZone's West Brom blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @Punnerss - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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