The mad modern day football calendar has seen three Premier League matches (and a league cup tie) in the opening two weeks, before Ciaran Clark and other Newcastle players then head off for two crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Then it is back on Tyneside for another four Premier League games in a three week period, before off again for the final two World Cup qualifiers at the start of October.

Ciaran Clark and the Republic of Ireland face games against Georgia away on Saturday (5pm) and home to Serbia (and Aleksandar Mitrovic) on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Then the 6th and 9th of October have them concluding the 10 match group stage at home to Moldova and away to Wales.

Currently Group D looks like this:

Serbia 12 points – GD +6

Republic of Ireland 12 points – GD +4

Wales 8 points – GD +4

Austria 8 points – GD +1

With both Ciaran Clark and Shane Duffy (Brighton) now playing regularly in the Premier League, the talk in Ireland is that they could now form their first choice centre-back partnership for the next five years or more.

Last season Ciaran Clark was the biggest surprise for Newcastle fans, easily the best defender week in week out and very rarely not one of the two or three best performers in the whole team.

That has now continued into the Premier League and another quality performance saw him top it with a vital clearance off the line at 1-0 after international colleague Rob Elliot had made a massive blunder, then the defender went up the other end and headed the vital second goal to put Newcastle 2-0 up against West Ham.

Away on international duty, Ciaran Clark has been talking about playing club football and the impressive attention to detail that Rafa Benitez is famed for.

Clark says Rafa ‘Pulls the group of defenders in, and the midfielders and strikers or whatever groups, and looks to see if there’s anything there he can improve. Once he has something to tell you, he’ll want to keep practicing it until it’s second nature.’

Whilst Newcastle struggled to threaten further up the pitch against Spurs and Huddersfield, the defence still looked the part in those two matches.

The work put in on the training pitch giving Newcastle a solid foundation at the back, despite starting the season without first choice right-back DeAndre Yedlin, then within half an hour losing Lejeune and Dummett. Leaving Ciaran Clark as the only first choice defender remaining in the back four.

The fact that Manquillo, Mbemba and Lascelles all stepped in and the solid organisation was still there, was further proof of the detailed preparation.

Hopefully Rafa Benitez can get two or three more players in before tomorrow night’s deadline, then get to work with the group that he has been left with after a summer that has been anything but easy.

Ciaran Clark:

“I got a lot of confidence from last season, the way we played as a team. The confidence shows each week when you are going out there and winning games.

“I feel like I am improving as a player as well under Rafa Benitez and I want to keep doing that. Hopefully I can just bring the form I had last season into this season and keep going.

“He pulls the group of defenders in, and the midfielders and strikers or whatever groups, and looks to see if there’s anything there he can improve.

“Once Rafa has something to tell you, he’ll want to keep practicing it until it’s second nature.

“It’s a massive stadium, a massive fanbase, no matter what day of the week or what time the games are, the stadium is always packed out.

“They do expect good performances and good attitude shown on the pitch and if you can do that…

“It’s not just about managing that when you are doing so well, it’s when you are not playing so well, can you play under that pressure?

“I think I can, hopefully I can, and hopefully I can show that this year.”

  • Alan Pardew

    I think the formation thing is getting in the way of what we’ve got to do. That’s winning headers, running faster and showing a desire to win the game.

    • TheNutJob

      You should be managing England then, they need a kick up the a $$

      • Alan Pardew

        When people ask me about England … well, if I was still at Newcastle, I’d be pretty keen on that England job.

        • Rich Lawson

          C’mon Al,you’re to good for that !

  • Steve Pearce

    Why the Hell can’t these World Cup Qualifiers be held in the close season? They halt momentum, they stop new signings getting match experience and they throw up the threat of injury. This is a matter for FIFA to work out and it is an absolute disgrace that they continually disrupt everybody’s schedule in this manner

    • Alex

      Erm……..because it’s the ‘close season’, maybe?

      • Steve Pearce

        Exactly! It’s the close season because the domestic season has finished which means that international games can be played then without any disruption..

        • Alex

          So, when would you give players a break from playing football, then?

          • Steve Pearce

            Very good point indeed – so it looks like we’re stuck with them…

  • TheNutJob

    Mitro will most likely stamp on his heed or elbow him

  • GToon

    Clarkey is one of our best players I great attitude