Steve Clarke full of praise for West Brom match-winner Romelu Lukaku
West Brom boss Steve Clarke insisted his young match-winner Romelu Lukaku has a major future in the game – but the Baggies' boss fears the striker could make a New Year return to his parent club Chelsea.
The 19-year-old soared above Javier Garrido to earn Albion a first Premier League win in six after Zoltan Gera had cancelled out Robert Snodgrass' first half free-kick.
The �18m summer signing at Stamford Bridge has now notched six goals in the first part of a season-long loan deal that Clarke confirmed contains a natural break clause in January, when new Blues' boss Rafa Benitez could opt to recall the powerful Belgian.
'That is not something I like to think about or speak too much about,' said Clarke. 'I've seen a boy who came here with little confidence about the fact he came over for a lot of money and hasn't had many chances, if any, to play in the Premier League so he's got more confidence, his touch is improving, his work rate is better and it can improve again.
'I keep telling him his work rate can get better but he is a handful for defenders and I think if you look at his little cameo when he came off the bench against Liverpool earlier in the season and got off the mark with the goal I think you can see his all-round performances have improved. He has become more of a team player and he has still got that knack of being in the right place for the goals.'
Clarke insists the inevitable comparisons with Chelsea's former powerhouse striker Didier Drogba are grossly unfair on the ex-Anderlecht starlet.
'You can't mention one player and then compare another player,' he said. 'He is Lukaku and he's got his whole career in front of him. Let's give the boy time to develop and see how good he becomes. I don't understand why people have always thought a young player needs to be another this or that – he needs to be the best Romelu Lukaku he can be.
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'I don't like to categorise performances as better or worse, but I think has had a number of good performances every time he's played he has scored goals for us and he has done well.
'Shane Long has done well when I have selected him and I think I'm in a really good position in that I have got strikers up there that are pushing each other all the time and I think between them now they have got double figures. If you add Peter Odemwingie and Marco Fortune into that between the forward players and strikers I think we have got over 15 goals and that is a good return.'