For Steve Clarke, whose West Brom side play Chelsea on Saturday, a return to the Bridge is always special.

Twelve years as a player with the Blues brought three honours: the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. This weekend’s visit as manager has an extra appeal as it will be the first time Clarke goes head to head with Jose Mourinho.

Despite that, the two will not share a glass of wine at the end of the match. “In all my time working with him, I’ve seen him have just two sips of red wine,” says Clarke. As for the post-match managerial chat, which Sam Allardyce argues is so vital, Clarke says: “Hopefully, we will get a chance to have a quick five minutes. You guys in the media take up a lot of our time after the games now.”

Five minutes is probably all Mourinho needs to assess how well Clarke has developed given that, in his first Chelsea spell in 2004, he plucked the Scot from Chelsea’s youth team to become assistant manager.

“Certainly Mourinho was one of my mentors,” says Clarke. “It was good for me at that time in my career. He gave me good ideas, showed me a different way to work.”

How different? “A way of working which was more global,” explains Clarke. “You could do everything on the pitch within the training session: the tactical, technical, physical, psychological. More contact, more possession, more technical exercises with the ball. There was less separate running, more strategic running.”

The impact of Mourinho’s ‘global idea’ was such that Clarke says he has tried to take it forward; proof of how Mourinho has influenced the English game.

Clarke was hardly a coaching novice when he came under Mourinho’s wing. It was Glenn Hoddle’s arrival as Chelsea manager in 1993 that made Clarke think of life, one day, as part of a backroom staff. “Glenn’s method and manner of coaching intrigued me.”

It was another five years before Clarke made the transition when former Chelsea team-mate Ruud Gullit chose him as his No2 at Newcastle. He even had one match as manager — a 5-1 defeat against Manchester United — after Gullit resigned.

When Bobby Robson took over at  St James’ Park, he kept Clarke on and that experience taught him a great deal about man management.

“To see Bobby getting the best out of different characters was an education.” However, while Robson was Mourinho’s mentor, the two had very different coaching styles. “Bobby’s was good, solid British coaching.”

Although Clarke has picked up a lot from Mourinho, their demeanour on the touchline bears no resemblance. “I don’t think I’ve copied Jose’s style. I’m very different, quiet. I can be quite reserved, definitely not a shouter.

“There’s a limit to the number of times someone can shout at players. You’re dealing now with a lot of very wealthy young men and, to shout and scream every week, you lose the message. Sometimes I get angry but I always try to put my message across in a way the players will understand.”

It is this mix, Mourinho’s coaching methods and his own style, that the 50-year-old has taken with him in a roller-coaster career. This saw Clarke take charge of coaching at the Bridge after Avram Grant replaced Mourinho in 2007. “Unlike Jose,” says Clarke, “Avram was not a coach.”

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s arrival at the start of the 2008 season meant a “more Italian style where the fitness work is separate from the actual football work”. But, with the Brazilian World Cup winner bringing his own coaching staff, it also marginalised Clarke who felt his talents were not utilised enough.

Clarke’s misery was ended in September 2008 when he went to work as assistant for his former Chelsea team-mate Gianfranco Zola at West Ham.

After being shown the door at Upton Park in 2011 following Zola’s sacking, Clarke soon became assistant to Kenny Dalglish at Anfield. While he was there for little more than a year, Clarke did what he really enjoys. “Kenny is a normal British manager and has a coach. So, on the coaching field, the running and organising the sessions was my responsibility.”

Days after leaving Liverpool Clarke became a boss for the first time, taking over at West Brom after Roy Hodgson left for England, and he went into that job with the sort of experience few aspiring managers can claim.

The upheavals have also made Clarke philosophical. “People who own a club are entitled to do what they want. Sometimes there are some human casualties. Now, if you get two years, you’ve done well. The average time for a manager is 14 or 15 months. You have to learn to deal with it.”

At the Hawthorns, Clarke has learned to work under a director of football, Richard Garlick, and his chairman Jeremy Peace insists that the top flight is not a licence to spend money.

“They don’t run the club just to have two or three good years in the Premier League. They run it to sustain it over a number of years. I’m not going to say you don’t get some frustration when you see a club you think are at a similar level spending more than you. But you come in with your eyes wide open.”

Improving on last year’s eighth will not be easy given the stop-start season the Baggies have had — losing the first two home games, winning at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978 but losing at Anfield 4-1 two weeks ago. Clarke admits to feeling the pressure. “We’ve already lost a couple of managers. And this is before you’re really into the meat of the season. You are sitting on the sidelines and you know that the vultures are starting to circle.”

Clarke may feel all the more worried about the circling vultures as his contract runs out at the end of the season. “We need to start winning games and picking up points,” he says.

Crucial to this will be holding on to Saido Berahino. The England Under-21 international only made his Premier League debut in September but could make Hodgson’s squad for this month’s friendlies against Chile and Germany.

The club are in talks with the 20-year-old over a new contract — said to be increasing his weekly pay from £850 to £12,000 — but Clarke says: “All I’ll say with Saido is give him time to breathe, develop and mature. He’s a big talent. We have to give these kids time to grow.”


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