When I started this series Alan Pardew had served a relatively successful if unremarkable six months as Newcastle supremo, managing to cope without our star striker and leading us to a comfortable mid table finish. Speculating on future managers seemed unreasonable then, but a year on after Pardiola rightly earned Manager of the Season it seems outright madness. Still, this is Newcastle United we’re talking about!
In all seriousness you have to admit that if Pardew continues to be this successful every season there’s a chance we could lose him for a very different reason. Fortunately for Alan he was spared the noose by Roy Hodgson this season, but after England’s next upcoming collapse in 2014 he may not be so lucky… Whenever and however it happens, Pards won’t be around forever (although let’s hope he stays longer than say, his last eight predecessors or so) and we’ll be looking for a new manager, so could any of our ex players fit the bill?
If you’ve looked at the title you’ve probably managed to piece together than this article is about our former midfielder and local lad Lee Clark. Clarkie endeared himself to NUFC fans with some eight years of service over two stints making over 200 appearances. After a shock move to Sunderland, Clarkie managed to make himself even more of a legend after his decision to wear a very fashionable item of clothing in a certain F.A Cup Final…
After retiring at the end of the 2005-2006 season in which he had coached part time, Clark was appointed first team coach and reserve team manager by then manager Glenn Roeder. Clark would later serve under Roeder as assistant manager at Norwich City after the latter resigned from Newcastle in May 2007, linking up with him in November of the same year.
On 12 December 2008 Clark was appointed as manager of Huddersfield Town and remained until his sacking back in February this year. Clark’s removal was perhaps the most “shocking” managerial dismissal of the 2011-2012 season in the entirety of the football league, at least to the neutral eye. As was stressed regularly by the press, Clark led Huddersfield to a 43 match unbeaten run, both a club and football league record. Clark had also led Town to the playoffs twice, including 3-0 defeat to Peterborough in the 2010-2011 playoff final.
Huddersfield were still 4th when Clark was sacked, with three defeats in the last 54 games. I think everyone was taken by surprise after Clark got the sack, particularly us Toon fans who had followed the career of this young and obviously talented manager.
Every man and his dog seemed to have something to say about the Clark sacking, with a fair amount of scorn directed at the Town chairman Dean Hoyle, not least because he sacked Clark via a two-minute phone call, a move that would make even Mike Ashley blush!
On the face of it Clark led Huddersfield to relative success and year on year improvement, despite not achieving the ultimate goal of promotion to the Championship. Clark also seems to have an eye for talent-being responsible for bringing in the talented Jordan Rhodes as well as midfielder Anthony Pilkington, now plying his trade at Norwich.
This kind of success led many to believe that Clark was doing a very good job at Huddersfield, hence the inevitable backlash after his sacking. Indeed our very own Lee Ryder wrote a fairly condescending and to be honest quite patronising article about how Huddersfield would miss out after getting rid of Clarkie.
Now whilst I probably would agree with his conclusions, the fact is that disregarding Huddersfield fans themselves and perhaps a few league one enthusiasts or veterans, of which I claim to be neither, not many people really knew what they were talking about. Clark did meet with plenty of success on both the transfer market and the playing field, but as Huddersfield fans themselves noted, Clark was still by and large backed to the hilt by his employer.
Indeed, during his three and a half year reign he signed some 44 players, and many of those on the upper echelons of a very competitive wage budget. Therefore, it could be fair to say Clark was perhaps not as successful as many assumed he was, yet would argue his sacking was still an unfair reward.
I’m only really pointing out the negatives because I want to avoid appearing to show blind loyalty to one of our own, but I think it’s fair to say that Lee Clark has a very bright future ahead of him. At just 39 years of age, Clark has displayed a willingness to get his hands dirty in the lower leagues and prove his managerial credentials as it were.
Despite his misfortune at being sacked by Huddersfield, Clark now has an opportunity to succeed where Chris Hughton failed and lead Birmingham City to promotion in what is a highly competitive Championship league.
Clark has plenty of time to learn from his mistakes and improve his managerial resume and for us at Newcastle it should already be know that a managerial with a less than impressive reputation should not be dismissed so easily, with Keegan, Roeder, Hughton and Pardew all proving to be successes on Tyneside despite lacking a “proven track record” or any managerial success prior to their appointments.
It’s easy to see why Lee Clark is a long term favourite to eventually rule the roost on Tyneside. A local lad, who was heavily influenced by the attacking football of Kevin Keegan and loves all things Newcastle, is surely a perfect candidate on paper. I for one am looking forward to following his career at Birmingham and wish him all the best for the future.
Hopefully he can learn his trade well enough to lead his hometown club to European and domestic glory at some point in the future, with any luck following in the footsteps of a certain Mr Pardew…« Newcastle move for French striker rejected | The rise of the footsoldiers? »