EMBATTLED Peter Odemwingie could miss out on the chance to play against Sunderland this weekend as the fall-out from his transfer deadline day debacle rumbles on.
But if the out-of-favour Nigerian is left on the sidelines at The Hawthorns on Saturday, Black Cats fans – who have seen the striker plunder four goals in the last five meetings between the two clubs – will be delighted.
Sunderland nemesis Odemwingie has been persona non grata at Albion after his hugely embarrassing drive to Lofus Road, where he was caught in the glare of the Sky cameras trying to engineer a lucrative move to QPR.
But he has barely been seen since then.
He did not feature in Albion’s squad which took on Spurs days after the transfer window closed and he was not involved in the squad which beat Liverpool 2-0 a week ago either.
But he remains at the club and can expect to be re-integrated before the end of the season, with Albion boss Steve Clarke suggesting that it is only a case of when.
And the Baggies’ manager’s most pressing decision over the 31-year-old now is whether he involves Odemwingie in the squad, on the bench or even from the start against Sunderland.
“All I can do is decide whether I think people can help us in certain or not, and then I can select Peter to play,” said the Scot.
“After that, it’s hard for me to speculate on whether people will accept him or not.”
Albion have not produced the blistering form in recent weeks that they showed at the start of the season and Sunderland will hope that continues this weekend.
But Clarke points out that he and his players were buoyed by the win at Anfield in their last run-out and will now be keeping their fingers crossed that a disappointing January was merely a blip.
That month not only included the Odemwingie incident but also Goran Popov’s red card for spitting, centreback Jonas Olsson’s fall-out with fans and poor Premier League form, as well as an early FA Cup exit to QPR.
Clarke, who was relieved to see an eight-game winless streak end at Liverpool, said: “It’s actually been a good experience for me.
“While I didn’t want this kind of publicity for the club, it has been a challenge for me.
“In the early part of the seasonm everything was going great for me. Recently, it’s a little bit more difficult, but people can see if I can handle these challenges.
“I won’t look back on it with any fond memories, but if I learn something from it, going ahead, that makes me a better coach. I’ll try to take positives from it.
“But the most important thing now is that we move on.”