Clarke plays down possibility of replacing Benitez at Chelsea

Steve Clarke has guided West Brom into the top half of the table. Photo: PA

West Brom head coach Steve Clarke insists it is too early to start touting him as a possible successor to interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez this summer.

But Clarke, who spent nearly 20 years at Stamford Bridge as player and coach, concedes it is his ambition to manage "a big club" at some stage of his career.

Benitez has confirmed he will be leaving the Blues this summer after an outburst against the club for naming him as an "interim" appointment and the supporters who verbally abuse him.

Clarke is in his first senior managerial role at the Hawthorns and has steered Albion into seventh spot in the Barclays Premier League.

But any ambitions about eventually being in charge of one of the Premier League's leading sides are for the future.

Clarke said: "I think it's too early to start connecting me with Chelsea. There are a lot of managers that are out there who have a better case than me.

"Wherever I am on the bookmakers list is a good indication and I'm sure I'm not in the list at 50-1 even!

"Listen, you've hit me with a question that has come out of left field because I haven't even thought about it.

"I'm not even a year into the job here. Up to now it has been a great season and I haven't looked anywhere beyond that."

But Clarke added: "If you are asking me if I want to manage a top team in the future? Of course I do.

"If you don't have that ambition to further and better yourself then you shouldn't be in the game. But it's not for now.

"The dream for me is we go to Chelsea and play as well as we can and get another three points.

"I cannot look so far ahead. It's not my nature. You guys should know that by now."

Clarke said: "The connection with Chelsea is inevitable. I can't do anything about the connection.

"Chelsea is a big part of me, I spent 20 years there out of nearly 50 in my life.

"It's a good club, good players, good team, always challenging for trophies and beyond that I don't see anything else."

Clarke confirmed that contract talks have opened with striker Shane Long and central defender Gareth McAuley, who both have 17 months to run of their current deals.