Ciaran Clark has revealed the key behind his rise to form with Newcastle United, believing he owes it all to Rafa Benitez – a manager he has learned ‘so much’ from.
The Irishman arrived for £5m from Aston Villa last summer, with several United fans unconvinced by the signing based on his performances with the Midlands club.
Clark has been a revelation, however. He has undoubtedly been our best defender this season, with his performances putting him in contention for United’s player of the season award.
He’s been composed, brave and commanding at the heart of Rafa’s defence and a player we’ve missed dearly in recent weeks.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Clark provided an insight into life under Benitez, explaining just why his game has developed since joining the Magpies:
“It has been a total change for me. He’s real man-manager and he wants you to get involved and learn. He wants to teach you and improve you as a player.”
“If he does that then it improves the team.”
“He works hard on defensive shape and positional stuff. It’s something I have probably not had as a player in my career.”
“I feel like I am learning so much and hopefully I can keep doing it.”
“Rafa Benitez keeps everybody positive and drills into you not to be complacent.”
“It is a real positive place. We’re all on the training pitch and on match days we have confidence.”
Clark’s development has been clear to see. I often saw him as wild and a liability when watching him in the past for Villa, yet he has appeared anything but at Newcastle, adding an air of calmness and composure to his game.
Such traits have been missed in the team in recent weeks, with his return to full training this week handing the side a timely boost, as he pushes for a return to the side for Monday’s game against Preston.
Here’s hoping he wins his fitness battle for next week’s crunch game at St. James’ and continues to flourish at the heart of the United back line.