I must admit that when Rafa brought in Ciaran Clark, I thought ‘what’s the point of this’?
Jamaal Lascelles and Chancel Mbemba had impressed together late on in the Premier League, a dogged pursuit had send the United boss land experienced Championship central defender Grant Hanley after two failed bids, whilst Paul Dummett can also move into the middle which is arguably his best position anyway!
So what was the point of buying a reserve, reserve, centre-back?
Surely Rafa Benitez was taking the having a big enough squad to a ridiculous degree, bringing in Ciaran Clark when he would be lucky to get on the bench.
Moving on, this week brought a media story that did the rounds, Chelsea supposedly interested in paying £18m for Jamaal Lascelles.
My first thought when I saw it was to naturally write it off as the beginning of the silly season of rumours still two months ahead of the next transfer window.
The second thought that entered my head was to wonder that if indeed Lascelles was worth £18m in today’s market, just what would Ciaran Clark be worth now, three months on from Newcastle paying £5m for him.
I like Lascelles as a player and think he is doing a decent job as a Captain but week after week, Ciaran Clark is proving himself easily Newcastle’s best defender.
Yesterday was no different, Clark head and shoulders above the rest. The most reliable when defending, both in the air and on the ground, he is quicker than Lascelles, plus he is by far the best centre-back Newcastle have at bringing the ball out from the back. In fact I would rate that part of his game as excellent, he has the confidence and pace to rapidly move with the ball from midway in our half to a threatening area in the opposition’s.
His first chance of the season was ironically when Jamaal Lascelles was dropped after two poor opening performances by the Newcastle Captain, at fault for goals against both Fulham and Huddersfield.
Ciaran Clark also looked a little shaky on his debut, gifting Reading a daft penalty in that 4-1 win. Showing his versatility he then played at left-back in the win at Bristol City, before his next chance being when a much changed side stuffed QPR 6-0.
His season really came to life though after the poor defeat to Wolves, both Mbemba and Lascelles had shockers and either could have been dropped. The Captain kept his place, Ciaran Clark came in, the pair of them never looking back since.
The former Villa defender’s personal record this season is played 12 and won 11, the only blip being appropriately the two points dropped when Newcastle visited Villa Park, though even that day the fan ratings on The Mag had Clark at 6.9 out of 10 and Lascelles only 5.9, Clark rated second best performer behind DeAndre Yedlin.
Jamaal Lascelles could and should continue to grow as this season moves on and of course he has age on his side, turning 23 this coming week.
However, as it stands now, I think Ciaran Clark has well and truly put his detractors at Aston Villa back in their box and is really looking like a player who has Premier League class stamped all over him and could easily make that transition back to the top tier, if all goes to plan at St James Park.
Next August, Clark will still only be 27 and in his prime, arguably Rafa Benitez’ most impressive signing yet?