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West Brom fires coach Steve Clarke

December 14, 2013 GMT
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Cardiff City's Peter Whittingham, right, scores the opening goal against West Bromwich Albion with header, during their English Premier League soccer match at The Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Potts, PA Wire) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES
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Cardiff City's Peter Whittingham, right, scores the opening goal against West Bromwich Albion with header, during their English Premier League soccer match at The Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Potts, PA Wire) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) — West Bromwich Albion moved to halt its slide down the English Premier League by firing coach Steve Clarke on Saturday, hours after the club slumped to a fourth straight loss.

Clarke lasted just 18 months in his first full-time managerial position, having previously been assistant coach at Chelsea — where he worked under Jose Mourinho in two straight league title-winning campaigns — West Ham and Liverpool.

Clarke guided West Brom to an eighth-place finish in the Premier League last season but Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Cardiff left the team just two points and two places above the bottom three. In 2013, West Brom has won seven of 34 games, picking up only 31 points in that period.

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“This club’s track record proves we do not take such decisions lightly, having only enforced a change in this position three times in approximately 14 years,” sporting and technical director Richard Garlick said in a statement.

“But with key games coming thick and fast, we felt it was important we acted now to give the club the best possible chance of a successful outcome this season.”

Clarke is the fourth coach to lose his job in the Premier League this season, after Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland), Ian Holloway (Crystal Palace) and Martin Jol (Fulham). Clarke’s assistant, Kevin Keen, was also removed.

Joint assistant coach Keith Downing will temporarily be in control of the first team until a permanent replacement is found.

West Brom has arguably its strong squad in years, having broken the club’s transfer record twice on deadline day in September to sign Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe for a combined 12 million pounds ($19.5 million).

But the loss of striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored 17 goals on loan at the Baggies from Chelsea last season, has been keenly felt. A win at Manchester United — its only victory in its last 10 games — and a draw at Chelsea have been rare positive results.

In its statement, West Brom said the board made a “unanimous decision” and took into account results as a whole in a “disappointing” 2013.

“Our player wage bill is the highest in the club’s history and we feel we have built a squad capable of being very competitive in the Premier League,” Garlick said.

Clarke took over at West Brom after Roy Hodgson left to become England manager.

Its next game is at home to Hull on Saturday.

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