West Bromwich Albion legend Ally Robertson believes the club’s defence looks more organised when Matt Clarke plays, speaking in an interview with the Express and Star.
The 25-year-old, who arrived from Brighton and Hove Albion on a season-long loan deal in the summer, received a major blow near the beginning of the 2021/22 campaign when he was ruled out for over a month with a hamstring injury.
After spending time on the sidelines up until the Stoke City clash at the beginning of the end of the month, when he appeared as an unused substitute, he is now in with a shout of starting against arch-rivals Birmingham City on Friday night in what will be a huge boost for Valerien Ismael’s men.
Shortly after Clarke sustained his injury, fellow West Brom centre-back Dara O’Shea was ruled out for around four to six months after fracturing his ankle on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
22 questions about West Brom’s away kits from over the years – Can you get full marks?
This forced the recently-relegated side to move for former Sheffield United centre-back Kean Bryan, who made his Premier League breakthrough at Bramall Lane last season but failed to put pen to paper on a new deal in South Yorkshire.
He has helped to provide more competition in this position, even with boss Ismael opting to stick with three in central defence, but Albion legend Ally Robertson believes Clarke has to be one of the first names on the teamsheet due to his impact on the team.
Speaking to the Express and Star about the 25-year-old, he said: “I do think when Clarke plays we look even more organised.
“I think ever since he has come in he has been brilliant.
“He’s a great organiser and I do think the defence hasn’t looked quite as stable while he’s been out.”
The return of Matt Clarke is a huge boost even with the signing of Kean Bryan – and will only help to increase performance levels at centre-back as the competition there intensifies.
Although Cedric Kipre remains a part of the Baggies’ squad, he may not be someone Ismael will want to rely on in their quest for promotion and having Clarke back means he’s unlikely to be heavily involved for the foreseeable future.
The 25-year-old’s return is especially important with the long-term injury to Dara O’Shea – and can only help to boost the Baggies’ chances of promotion after playing a big part in their fast start this term.
Robertson is right in saying they have looked less assured at the back – and his availability will enable Conor Townsend to return to his more orthodox left wing-back position – providing more balance in defence after conceding a heartbreaking 79th-minute strike in their last game in what was their first loss of the 2021/22 Championship season.
His ability to organise Albion’s defence can only be a great asset alongside Kyle Bartley’s leadership skills – and you can almost guarantee their defensive record will improve further if he starts at the back for Ismael’s side once again.