Steve Clarke today insisted his new-look Albion will grow in strength after they rescued a point at Fulham by ending their early-season goal drought.
Baggies defender Gareth McAuley ended the six-hour wait for a Premier League goal when he headed a 92nd-minute equaliser at Craven Cottage but Clarke’s side are still without a win in four games.
Albion, who made a flying start last season, now face a huge game against Sunderland at The Hawthorns on Saturday as both sides look to win for the first time.
Clarke, who revamped his squad in the final two weeks of the transfer window with five new faces, said: “We’re five points worse off than we were at this point last year but the strength of the squad will show itself over the course of the season.
“We faded last year but this year I expect the squad to be stronger. I left out, or was without, eight senior players on Saturday.
“We have good strength in depth this year. I expect we will reap the rewards of that later this season.
“People talk about struggles but we’re four games into the season. Martin Jol made a comment saying Saturday was a ‘must-win game’. I said to my players that it wasn’t a must-win game.
“It can’t be. There were still 105 points to play for and now where are 102 points to play for.”
Albion are confident of having Stephane Sessegnon available to make a debut against his former club on Saturday after his work permit application was delayed, sidelining him at Fulham.
Sessegnon was unable to attend a hearing until Friday because of international duty.
But Shane Long is a doubt with the bone bruising to his knee that kept him out at Craven Cottage.
“When you transfer from one club to another you have to re-apply for your work permit,” said Clarke.
“There was a little glitch in the process on Friday that delayed it and unfortunately for us he was not available.
“Hopefully it will be resolved by today at the latest and he’ll be available to face his old club.
“Shane came back from Ireland injured, he’s got a problem that will make him doubtful for next week’s game. I don’t think the diagnosis is any worse than that.
“It’s not long-term.”