After arriving in the summer as what looked Newcastle United’s fourth choice centre-back, few could have predicted the impact Ciaran Clark would have on Newcastle United.
Excellent throughout the season when he has played…and so badly missed when out injured, with Newcastle recently struggling badly in defence without him.
The clear NUFC player of the year, Ciaran Clark makes the difference for Newcastle United, but he claims that Rafa Benitez has done the same for him.
The Irish international believes that Rafa is the first manager he has ever had, who has properly coached him in exactly what is needed for his position.
Clark saying that the United boss constantly works on ‘defensive shape and positional stuff’ and ‘I feel like I am learning so much’.
The stats have shown that with the former Villa player in the team the form is that of champions, whilst without him the results indicate a team just above the relegation zone.
Good in the air and comfortable on the ball, Ciaran Clark also has pace, something completely absent in Hanley and Lascelles who Rafa Benitez went with at Ipswich – with disastrous consequences.
Clark is one of a handful of players clearly good enough to play in the Premier League if promoted and Newcastle fans are desperately hoping that he is back in the team on Monday, after it was confirmed he was now back in full training.
“It has been a total change for me, Rafa Benitez is a 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, I feel like I have learned more about the game.
“To have that winning feeling and the confidence it brings shows on the pitch, hopefully I can keep playing the way I have been.
“It is a real positive place and we are all on the training pitch and on match days we have confidence.
“You can see that from results and performances we have put it in – Rafa Benitez keeps everybody positive and drills into you not to be complacent.
“That is the key really, we have a good bunch of lads here and nobody gets too ahead of themselves.
“We take each game as it comes and work hard on the training ground.
“Before every (home) game we have all been aware of what we have to do, I think in some of the games at home we felt we should have done better ourselves.
“We maybe could have hung on and got the win when we drew games, but that is football, we just want to try to improve and take confidence and put it into performances at home.
“He told us not to take our foot off the gas, we need to stay focused and concentrate on each game.
“We have a good team spirit here and all want to do well, we’re on the home straight but can only concentrate on each game.
“At the start of the season it was a tough one but we are in the right place at this stage of the season, I am very happy with how things have gone.
“It will be a tough run-in and hopefully by the end of the season we are still in the same spot.”