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Steve Bruce believes back line can provide base for West Brom promotion push

He has already outlined his plans to play with a back four next season – and Steve Bruce believes he already has a number of defenders in his ranks who are capable of helping Albion win promotion to the Premier League next year.

Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Steve Bruce (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

The 61-year-old boss has go on record multiple times to say he plans to massively overhaul his squad this summer. But Bruce firmly believes Albion’s problems are rooted in midfield and attack.

Two years ago the Baggies won promotion with defenders Darnell Furlong, Conor Townsend, Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi all playing key roles.

Those four players all remain at the club.

And Bruce believes they give him a platform from which he can build.

“The back four that won promotion two years ago is still here,” the boss said. “There is something to build on there. They have been there, done it and worn the T-shirt. They had a kicking in the Premier League, I understand that. But since then we’ve asked full-backs to play as wing-backs.

“And it’s not quite natural for them. They are not naturals when it comes to taking people on.

“And I think there in lies a problem that we have had. We struggle to score goals.”

Furlong, Townsend, Bartley and Ajayi have all had inconsistent campaigns this term – with Bruce admitting fellow defender Matt Clarke has been Albion’s most consistent player this term.

The 25-year-old, who is on loan from Brighton, is set to leave the Premier League side permanently this summer and is understood to be keen on returning to The Hawthorns.

Bruce has confirmed talks with Clarke will take place at the end of the season – with Albion likely to have to move a couple of centre-backs on before they can think about bringing him back.

The boss, though, is a fan of the former Portsmouth man. “We have to have those conversations with Brighton,” the boss said when asked about Clarke’s future. Clarkey, since I’ve been here, has been the most consistent player.

“He is a really good pro and does everything right. You can’t have too many Matt Clarke’s around. He’s the type you want to have around here. And there aren’t too many left footers about. He gives you that natural balance. He gives you what he has got, week-in, week-out.

“But he is Brighton’s player so we have to have conversations over the next few weeks and see what his situation is.”

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