Curtis Davies has hailed former Derby County teammate Matt Clarke in an interview with The Athletic, with the 24-year-old signing for West Bromwich Albion this week.
After receiving no first-team minutes in the Premier League with Brighton and Hove Albion, Clarke was shipped out on loan to Derby twice in the past two years, linking up with Davies as they helped to keep the Rams afloat in the second tier.
But with the East Midlands side currently under a strict transfer embargo and without the funds to bring him to Pride Park on a permanent deal, West Brom have fended off interest from fellow Championship promotion rivals Sheffield United to sign the centre-back on a season-long loan.
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After signing Alex Mowatt and teenager Quevin Castro, Baggies boss Valerien Ismael made Clarke his third signing of the summer as he looks to guide his side back to the Premier League, a division the 24-year-old has never had the chance to play in.
This will make the central defender hungry for success as he aims to take the West Midlands side back to the top flight – and fellow defender Davies has backed him to be a success at The Hawthorns.
Speaking to The Athletic about his former defensive partner at Pride Park, Davies said: “He’s one of the most natural defenders I’ve played with, in terms of putting his body on the line, positional play, winning headers and his strength.
“He’s still young but he’s already racked up almost 250 games – he’ll do well at West Brom.”
The move was initially thought to be a permanent one, with £5m the price tag being bandied around. However, the Seagulls have decided to retain Clarke as he goes out on his third loan spell since his arrival on the south coast in 2019.
With West Brom fans already knowing the quality, leadership and experience 30-year-old Kyle Bartley brings to the Baggies’ backline, this glowing reference from someone who played alongside Clarke will be reassuring for supporters who haven’t seen the Brighton defender in action.
He has both age and experience on his side after spending time at Derby – and will have fought against great adversity last term to beat the drop and compensate for a misfiring attack.
The Rams had the worst attacking record in the league at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, showing how well the 24-year-old did to keep them afloat in the second tier.
In terms of West Brom though, Dara O’Shea and Semi Ajayi are also decent options for Ismael to have at the back alongside the Brighton loanee, so their defence is shaping up nicely ahead of the new season and could be bolstered further with defensive midfield targets Trevoh Chalobah and Tommy Doyle, although their hopes of signing the former are fading.