He may be having to miss international football in June but Ciaran Clark only has focus on the Premier league kick-off in August.

Newcastle’s clear player of the year in many/most fans’ eyes, the centre-back has been outstanding ever since getting a run in the first team.

Appearing to be an unnecessary signing after Grant Hanley had already been added, instead the former Villa player has proved to be Rafa Benitez’ best pound for pound signing so far.

Having missed the season’s title winning finale against Barnsley through injury, the summer will give the defender plenty of time to rest and recuperate in time for pre-season training starting in July.

Ciaran Clark believes ‘there are exciting times ahead’ at Newcastle under Rafa Benitez and the Irish international is surely one of the first names on the teamsheet for the United boss ahead of next season.

It will be interesting to see if Rafa perseveres with Jamaal Lascelles as first choice alongside Clark, or whether he feels the need to add extra quality in the middle of the defence.

It is both ironic and amusing that Villa spent an absolute fortune in the past 12 months, far more than Newcastle, yet saw a player of Ciaran Clark’s ability leave for a relative pittance (£5m).

Aged 27 he should be at his peak and Clark is relishing once again ‘playing against some of the best players and in some of the best stadiums in the world’.

As for Aston Villa, they will be off to the likes of Burton, Millwall and Sunderland

Ciaran Clark:

“We will be ready.

“We’ll prepare well and be ready for the challenge (of the Premier League).

“To move to such a big club (from Aston Villa) and being able to work with the players and staff that we have here has been great.

“There are exciting times ahead.

“Everyone is obviously looking forward to the next season, playing against some of the best players and in some of the best stadiums in the world.

“For me personally I have really enjoyed this season.

“It’s easy to say that after we are up but it has been fantastic for me.

“Promotion was our aim from the start of the season.

“We all worked so hard, throughout the whole of the season to achieve it – the staff, the players.

“I feel like I am learning all the time.”