Ciaran Clark faces arguably the biggest few days of his career.
Certainly when it comes to international football it doesn’t get any bigger than this.
The Newcastle United defender is only two games, three hours, away from heading to the 2018 World Cup.
Now in an established first choice pairing with Brighton’s Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark would head off next summer to Russia in line to play in his first ever World Cup finals.
Clark will be well past turning 33 when Qatar 2022 kicks off (if it ever does…), as it is scheduled to take place in December, rather than the usual summer slot.
Injury to Jamaal Lascelles saw Ciaran Clark back on the pitch on Saturday and he looks set to start alongside Florian Lejeune at Old Trafford in 11 days time.
Before then however, he faces Denmark and Christian Eriksen in a double header play-off to decide World Cup qualification.
Eriksen has turned into one of the Premier League’s best and most consistent performers but when asked about his specific threat, Clark says the Spurs midfielder is just one of a number of good Danish players.
The Newcastle defender though is adamant that the Republic of Ireland have ‘got a lot of good players ourselves’.
Sounding very much like a Newcastle/Rafa Benitez pre-match talk, Clark says ‘It’s all about being organised, staying focused and working hard’.
Of the various Newcastle players who were vying for a place in the finals, I was hoping Ciaran Clark would make it through. He was a class act in the promotion season and my player of the year, whilst alongside Florian Lejeune the pair looked very good in pre-season and looked to be continuing that against Tottenham on the opening day, only for Kane to put the Frenchman out of action with a very poor challenge.
Good luck to Ciaran Clark (and Rob Elliot), they play away in Denmark on Saturday (11 November) and then home on Tuesday 14 November.
Ciaran Clark talking to eir Sport:
“Obviously we know they (Denmark) have got good players but we have come up against teams with good individuals before.
“We have got a lot of good players ourselves and I think if we focus on our own performance, then the group and the staff are confident in our ability, and if we can take that into the games then we’ll be ok.
“Other teams will now know that it’s not going to be a simple game against us.
“It’s all about being organised, staying focused and working hard.
“We know we have got the ability to go and get goals but we have also shown that we can defend as a team, which is a real bonus.”