With one of his first choice centre backs suspended for tonight’s Championship match with Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray has called on the other to fill the void.
Mowbray must do without the suspended Curtis Davies at The Hawthorns this evening after the 21-year-old was sent off in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough.
That means Mowbray is looking for Davies’ partner at the heart of the Albion defence, Neil Clement, to show a ‘strong personality and character’ but not just for the visit the Welsh side, for the rest of the season too.
Mowbray yesterday applauded the contribution Clement has made to the Albion cause since recovering from a long term injury late last year. He has started the last nine games during which time the Championship promotion chasers have won seven and drawn two, including a 3-0 derby romp at Wolves and earned creditable FA Cup replay against top flight opposition.
The former Chelsea trainee was outstanding against Middlesbrough and Mowbray wants to see him play with that sort of conviction more often.
"At times he needs to have greater belief in that he is a very good player. He has got to believe and have a strong personality and character," Mowbray said. "But on Saturday he stood up to world class strikers in [Mark] Viduka and [Aiyegbeni] Yakubu who give problems to everyone in the Premier League.
"The loss of Curtis Davies is a big loss but we push on. He has been outstanding for us for the last couple of months.
"But Neil Clement has been a big bonus for us. His arrival in the team won't be far off coinciding with a decent string of results."
Mowbray has also been impressed with the way the 28-year-old has recovered from last summer’s knee surgery and the way he has regained his place in the first team.
"He does bring a composure and has quality on the ball. He has just got to keep working and keep pushing on. He was injured when I first arrived and he is growing day by day now. He has got the athleticism, the spring, the quality."
The Baggies manager is confident that the belief he wants to see in Clement is being displayed throughout the rest of his team.
There is a swagger to Albion at the moment. While their creative midfielders buzz around looking for openings, with Diomansy Kamara and Kevin Phillips on form there is a certainty that when the inevitable chances come, they will be converted.
"There is a belief that we are not going to lose games," Mowbray said. "We've just got to keep pushing on and when you are winning, you don't do much training, you look to the next game and just keep winning."
He does not envisage making many changes to the team despite the fact it is only three days since they played at The Riverside.
"I don't chop and change teams for the sake of it," he said. "We haven't got the squad or the number of players to do that. I didn't see any signs of mental strain or fatigue at the weekend. This game will look after itself. It's a huge game for us and the players will be ready for it."
There will, however, be one enforced switch due to Davies’ absence. The centre back received one yellow card for a trip in the area that preceded Yakubu’s penalty and another for wrestling Viduka to the floor late in the game.
That could mean Paul McShane moving into the middle with either Martin Albrechtsen or even Jared Hodgkiss coming in at right back. Cardiff’s selection problems are much worse. Not only are they without their suspended top scorer Michael Chopra and Simon Walton — both were also dismissed at the weekend — they must also do without Glenn Loovens and former Albion player Darren Purse.