Paul Watson on The Hawthorns' heartbreaking managerial exit...
Steve Clarke has admitted remorse after presenting West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace with an ornate handmade rod as a memento of the club's successful 2012/13 campaign.
Clarke gave Peace the thoughtful keepsake after West Brom achieved their best-ever Premier League finish of eighth, despite the departure of Roy Hodgson.
Sources suggest that it took Clarke the best part of pre-season to fashion the rod, which is over three feet in length and garishly decorated with pictures of himself and Peace enjoying each other’s company.
“Clarke and Peace, best friends forever,” is elegantly stencilled across the front of the rod, which is predominantly composed of split Tonkin bamboo and fragments of Markus Rosenberg.
But in a tragic and completely unpredictable turn of events, Peace opted to thrash Clarke with his own handiwork after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Cardiff.
Eyewitnesses say that Peace mercilessly horsewhipped a stricken Clarke with the rod, shouting "That’ll teach you for exceeding expectations" and sneering at the manager’s appeals for clemency or bandages.
“We are shocked and appalled at the treatment of Steve Clarke,” a statement from the League Managers’ Association read.
“Steve has worked tirelessly at West Brom both on the training ground and in his small handicraft studio where he created the rod with scant resources. To see him beaten to a pulp by that very same gift is a real indictment of modern football, and indeed the handicraft industry.”
In an odd twist, Gianfranco Zola is widely tipped to take over at West Brom, while a bruised Clarke may be unveiled at Watford.
An archaic league rule states that the moves will cancel out in this situation, leaving Clarke and Peace forced to bury the handsome West Brom hatchet that Clarke forged from low-carbon steel as a gift for Peace’s wedding anniversary last May.