Press article:

Off to Coventry - 14/02/2004

Eric Black today unveiled his second loan signing in as many days when he brought young Everton defender Peter Clarke to Highfield Road.The 22-year-old centre-half has joined Sky Blues for a month and goes straight into the squad to face league leaders Norwich City tomorrow, along with Birmingham City’s hard man left-back Martin Grainger who is set to start at left-back in place of the injured Dean Gordon.“I am delighted to secure the two loan signings,” said Black.

“Peter is a young lad who Archie Knox knows quite a bit about and we have brought him down to have a closer look at. He will be included in the squad tomorrow.

“He has a bit of Premiership experience and has been on the bench for Everton a few times, but whether he will start against Norwich I couldn’t say just yet.”

Clarke, who has come up through the England schoolboy ranks and more recently played for the under-21s, made his senior Everton debut at Highfield Road in the 1998/99 season, coming on as a first half substitute and helping the Toffee’s to victory.He has had loan spells at Port Vale and Blackpool, and Rotherham have also been trying to get him on loan. Grainger, meanwhile, will go straight into the team tomorrow.

“I watched him play for Birmingham reserves against Blackburn last week and he shone out,” enthused Black about the 31-year-old - and he admits that if the player comes up to expectations he would jump at the chance of signing him permanently.

“He is a very competent defender and has many qualities that have caught my eye. I saw him as a left-back and that is in my mind, and I am indebted
to Steve Bruce for letting me have him for a month.”

He added: “He is someone who I would certainly be more than interested in if he became available.”

Dele Adebola has turned down a move to Notts County and travelled up to speak to Burnley instead, but David Pipe has agreed to stay with Gary Mills at Meadow Lane for a second month after impressing his former reserve team boss.

Meanwhile, Black has denied local radio reports linking him with Sheffield United striker Paul Peschisolido. “I have not been in touch with Neil Warnock at all,” he said. Meanwhile, Black is banking on City staying true to form against Norwich. The Sky Blues have consistently produced their best displays against the top-six sides in a season of bitter-sweet contrasts.

“The stats show that we perform better against the better teams so if they continue to be right then we should perform well,” said the frustrated City manager. “I have an idea why that is happening but I want to keep that to myself at this moment in time.”

Black uses statistics to assess his strikers but admits that sometimes decisions have to be based on instinct - and that should see Julian Joachim partner Patrick Suffo up front for the second consecutive match.

“I thought Patrick and Julian were a real goal threat at Nottingham,” said Black.“OK, it didn’t transpire into too many goals but I had a gut feeling as I was watching the game and sometimes you have to hang on to that.

“You can look at statistics and we do that in training when we look at the strikers - how many shots they take and how many goals they get.”

“Sometimes someone has three shots and scores three goals, and sometimes someone tries 12 shots and doesn’t hit the target once.”

“Stats can give you a clearer picture over time but sometimes you just go with your gut feeling.”

One of Black’s big disappointments this season is that his side’s impressive shots-at-goal ratio has not produced more goals. “I know we are the number one in the division for shots on and off target which is not ideal,” he said.

“It is good in some ways because it shows we are creating chances, but it is converting them that matters.”

“So it is pleasing but it is hollow when you don’t score the goals because they are the only stats that matter, and the final column with the points.”

The manager is keen to keep Steve Staunton at centre-half which could mean a place on the bench for fit-again Mo Konjic. Black, who admits that City will be taking special precautions to combat the pace of one-time City favourite Darren Huckerby, said: “Norwich are top of the league so they are certainly doing something right, that’s for sure.”

“They have spent a lot of money, primarily on two strikers in the first half of the season and it paid great dividends.”

“They have gone out again and spent even more and they obviously feel they have a good chance to getting up, but I still feel we are more than capable of giving anyone a game in this division, and with the right attitude we can compete with most.”

“We are certainly not fearful of them. We gave them a good game up there when we kept the ball for long periods and deserved more from the game.”

City (from): Shearer, Whing, Davenport, Staunton, Grainger, Clarke, Gudjonsson, Doyle, Deloumeaux, Joachim, Suffo, Ward, Morrell, McSheffrey, Gordon, Shaw, Konjic, Barrett, Pead.

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