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Clarke keen for a return trip to Europe

PUBLISHED: 15:04 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 14:19 05 October 2010

Steve Clarke is desperate for West Ham to win the race for a Europa League berth - because he misses the challenge of pitting his wits against the continent's leading clubs

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Steve Clarke is desperate for West Ham to win the race for a Europa League berth - because he misses the challenge of pitting his wits against the continent's leading clubs.

Hammers No2 Clarke, who this week agreed a new four-year deal at the club, joined from Chelsea last year following a glittering career as assistant manager at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups during Clarke's stint as understudy to Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scloari and were regular fixtures in the latter stages of the Champions League.

But Clarke shocked Chelsea by quitting as assistant boss in September in favour of an identical role at West Ham.

But the Scot is adamant that he made the right decision in making the move across London and is now determined to guide the Hammers into Europe as he bids to experience the thrill of competing in Europe's premier club competition.

He said: "For me personally, I want to be involved in European football. If I miss one thing from my job at Chelsea, it would be involvement in the Champions League.

"I'm enjoying my time at West Ham - it was a strange move for a lot of people, but I feel justified for moving. Until now its been a good season and it's worked well.

"But apart from plaudits and pats on the backs, the one tangible thing we can take from this season is if we qualify for Europe. If you are ambitious you need to aim for as high as you can get."

The Hammers fell behind Fulham in the race for seventh spot following last weekend's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea, but Roy Hodgson has already expressed reservations about leading his team into Europe.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp and Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill were also criticised after fielding weakened teams in this year's UEFA Cup, creating a strong impression that Premier League clubs view the competition as a burden.

Yet Clarke insists he has no concerns about competing in Europe next year.

He said: "It may get to the point next season where we wish we hadn't qualified but we'll deal with that when we come to it.

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