West Bromwich Albion’s build-up to tomorrow’s Premier League relaunch chance against West Ham has been rocked by a glut of injuries.
The Baggies were already fighting to get three of last week’s casualties fit for a Hawthorns clash they hope will enable them to end a run of three successive defeats.
But head coach Steve Clarke admitted he is keeping other casualties a secret until he hands in the team sheet.
The jury is out on whether keeper Ben Foster, midfielder Claudio Yacob and defender Liam Ridgewell will be fit.
But Clarke’s decisions over that trio will be influenced by the availability of others, with three more senior figures thought to be under a fitness doubt.
“I’ve got a number of issues,” said Clarke. “There are a number of injury doubts for the game this weekend, more than you guys have got noted down.
“It is a test of the squad strength but it is something I don’t shy away from because I’ve got a good squad and it will certainly be tested over the next four or five weeks.”
But the Albion gaffer – who is due to be presented with the cursed manager of the month award before kick-off tomorrow – shrugged off suggestions he was now facing his first big test as a No.1.
“I don’t agree with that. I don’t think it is a massive test,” he said. “The test for me as a No.1 came when I walked into this job in the summer.
“That was the big test. We started well this season and if you took out the defeats we’ve had and spread them over a course of the season, everyone would be saying we are doing fantastic.
“The players this week have been positive, not dwelling on the three defeats, they are looking forward to the run of games coming up. It would have been nice if we could have kept the good run going a little longer, but we didn’t, and we have to make sure the next run starts tomorrow.”
He added: “If I had been offered the top six in mid December, I would have been pleased with the points tally we’ve got.”