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Opinion

Boy’s own stuff from Newcastle’s best defender – Saves goal at one end then scores at other

1 year ago
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I quite enjoy the fact that pundits/experts and fans of other clubs don’t appreciate just how good Ciaran Clark is.

I even get a bit of perverse pleasure from the minority of Newcastle supporters who somehow still don’t realise what an asset the former Villa player is to the team.

Surely those who bizarrely think Jamaal Lascelles is a better player, are Newcastle fans who only read what the ‘experts’ say and don’t really watch the matches.

Once he got his chance last season, Ciaran Clark was Newcastle’s best defender pretty much every week, and arguably the best in the overall team as well on most occasions.

Thankfully that has carried through to this season, with the central defender seamlessly stepping up back to the Premier League.

The two opening matches have been challenging but Ciaran Clark wasn’t at fault for any of the three goals or the overall defeats.

The defence looked fine against Spurs despite having to reorganise with two injuries and Clark then doing a great job at left-back. Only Shelvey leaving Newcastle to play with 10 men for half the game, meant a defeat rather than the likely 0-0 draw that looked on the cards.

At Huddersfield, despite inviting the home side to attack for much of the game and defending deep, Ciaran Clark and the rest of the defence looked ok, Mooy’s goal coming as the centre of midfield opened up and Merino maybe showed his inexperience when done over by a simple one-two.

Against West Ham though, the whole team deserves credit, but especially Ciaran Clark.

Giving the Hammers next to nothing in the first-half, after the break and a goal down the visitors tried to have a bit of a go. They almost got back into it when a bit of chaos and losing the ball further up the pitch in the 53rd minute, allowed West Ham to break and Cresswell to power up the left.

His effort from outside the box saw the rarely troubled Rob Elliot make a real hash of it, simply blocking the ball to Hernandez eight yards out. The striker’s effort beat Elliot but a last ditch clearance from Clark off the line was the equivalent of scoring at the other end.

Speaking of which, 20 minutes later, brilliant work by Matt Ritchie saw him win back possession up the pitch and then a superb right foot cross was met by Ciaran Clark like a centre-forward, heading into the bottom corner and sealing the victory.

Like all fans, Newcastle supporters are guilty at times of going overboard about some of their players, however in Clark’s case I think it is maybe the opposite.

I think he is arguably Rafa Benitez’ best signing (so far), arriving for £5m due to a buyout clause.

He is good in the air, quick – great in the recovery, confident on the ball, with the ability to pass or carry the ball up the pitch himself. Plus he is left-footed, which usually is an asset for teams when looking for partnerships – most being right footed.

I’m glad he isn’t really talked about because when you see what very average players are going for, I think Ciaran Clark is at least in that £15m-£20m bracket, though of far greater value to us than that.

Obviously we need players to step up all over the pitch and at least a handful of key players who can help make up for the lack of real quality in other areas of the team – but Ciaran Clark is a main man in my opinion if Newcastle are to stay competitive this season.

Ciaran Clark is a class act but whisper it quietly.

Ciaran Clark talking to official club site after the 3-0 win over West Ham:

“Both ourselves and West Ham were in the same position.

“For us, we wanted to make sure we got some points on the board, we were aiming for the win, we wanted to go out there and put on a performance and that is what we did.

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“This week, we’ve kept working hard in training and we’ve tried to take that into the game today.

“We’re going into the international break now and those that are here can enjoy it.

“Then when we come back, we have to make sure we push on and get a few more decent results.

“Last season we had that momentum, we were going into every game really positively, challenging for the Championship – but this is a totally different league.

“It’s probably one of the toughest leagues in the world, we’re playing against the best players, but we want to keep improving and see how we get on.

“He (Joselu) is a big, strong lad, he works hard, and he managed to hold the ball up a lot of the time, which is obviously good for us as it helps the team get up the pitch.

“He is an outlet to hit off goal-kicks as well, and when we do need to go longer he can obviously win those headers, and we can get up the pitch and win the second ball.

“I’m pleased for him and I’m pleased he got his goal – hopefully we can all kick on now and improve.”

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

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