West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke today gave Nicolas Anelka an ultimatum over his future as he launched a transfer search for a new goalkeeper.
The Baggies boss was set to increase the pressure on Anelka for a decision on his proposed retirement with just five days to go until the transfer deadline.
With Anelka out indefinitely and fellow forward Matej Vydra expected to miss Sunday’s Premier League visit of Swansea, Clarke was at least handed some good news last night thanks to rookie striker Saido Berahino.
The 20-year-old, who left war-torn Burundi when he was just 10 and has since been called up for England’s Under-21s, scored a 31-minute hat-trick as the Baggies saw off League Two Newport in the Capital One Cup second round last night.
However, if that at least provided Clarke with food for thought, the Baggies boss seems set to be busier than he thought in the last days of the transfer window.
As well as a striker, Albion’s last-ditch hunt for reinforcements has been extended to goalkeepers after No.1 Ben Foster was ruled out for up to three months with a stress fracture to his foot.
Anelka has been missing since leaving the club on compassionate leave on Thursday after telling staff at the Baggies training ground he wanted to retire just one game into his Baggies career.
“I’m conscious that time is short and it’s something I will be trying to address today,” said Clarke.
“We have to arrange a meeting as quickly as we can to get it sorted. I have to sit down and speak to Nicolas.
“We have to get in touch with him or he has to get in touch with us to see how he is and where he’s at.
“As quickly as possible, we need to have that chat.”
Anelka is believed to be at his home in London but the Baggies will demand an urgent meeting with the 34-year-old, who was hit hard by the death of friend and agent Eric Manasse.
Meanwhile, Foster’s injury has further complicated the Baggies’ hunt for signings which had previously centered around strikers and wingers.
Foster could be sidelined for up to 12 weeks, leaving Clarke with just Boaz Myhill and the relatively untried Luke Daniels to compete for the goalkeeping spot.
“It’s important I have experienced cover,” said Clarke. “Boaz is fit and he was only on the bench last night against Newport because he’s only trained for one day.
“Luke came in under pressure at the weekend at Everton and I thought he deserved his chance. I thought he was good.”
and he looked assured.
“I’ve got those two keepers and I have no problem with running with them but obviously I need cover.
“The next one after them is Jack Rose, who is a really promising young keeper but is not ready.
“We will look to bring in experienced cover.”