Clarke defends players' party
West Brom boss Steve Clarke has defended his players' right to enjoy a Christmas party, despite the team's poor form.
Clarke allowed his squad to travel to Dublin for a night out after Saturday's loss to Norwich, which was their third Barclays Premier League defeat in the space of a week.
The trip made the news as striker Shane Long, playing a guitar, and goalkeeper Boaz Myhill were pictured busking in the streets of the Irish capital.
Clarke sees it all as innocent fun and hopes it will have a positive effect on morale ahead of two crucial games.
The Baggies, now just two points above the relegation zone, travel to Cardiff on Saturday before hosting Hull the following week.
Clarke said: "It was good for the players to get away. It was a difficult week. They went away, got themselves together and had a good time.
"They have to relax and enjoy themselves. If anyone says they weren't hurting after three defeats in a week - they were.
"They have been hurting, the same as everyone has been hurting. Everyone hurts when you lose. To try to make an issue of going out and trying to have a night out is wrong."
The party had been pre-planned but some fans have been critical that it was allowed to proceed after the Norwich result.
Clarke, however, insists it is not sending out the wrong signals.
He said: "I don't understand that it would look bad. They had two days off and they wanted to go and spend some time together - no problem."
Clarke was asked specifically about the striking images of Long busking which reached the media but he batted off any suggestion they might portray the club or player in a bad light.
The Scot, speaking at a pre-match press conference, said: "I have heard Shane sing and he is a very good singer, very talented. Maybe Boaz didn't help him!
"Shane's good on the guitar. As well as being a very talented footballer he is a very talented musician as well.
"It was good, I don't have a big issue. You get a lot of bad headlines surrounding football, but I don't think that was a bad headline at all."
West Brom have won just one of their last nine league games but Clarke has been pleased with the attitude shown since the players returned to training this week.
He said: "It's only on the back of one bad week - unfortunately there were three games in that week, so we lost the three games.
"It was a difficult week for us, it was painful, we didn't enjoy it, nobody likes getting beat.
"Training this week has been good, the response from the players has been excellent."
Striker Victor Anichebe could be doubtful for Saturday's game after missing the club's latest training session through illness.