Perhaps the most important aspect of all of this is that Alex Neil wants Jack Clarke back, and given he’s the man who most recently worked with him, that’s good enough for me.
I had my doubts over Clarke last season as, to be fair, for large parts of his time here he struggled to impact on games.
That said, when things clicked at the end of the season for the team as a whole, they seemed to click for Clarke too. Had it not been for a save by David Stockdale, he would have scored a legendary Sunderland goal at Wembley that would have most certainly earned him a place in Wearside folklore, and his impact during the run towards promotion can’t really be understated.
He was the man who took the initiative and beat his man to set up the winning goal for Patrick Roberts in the semi-final, and I guess with that in mind, we owe a large part of our success to him. His loan move and the faith shown in him by the club paid off in the end, and that’s all that matters.
However, if we were to make a move for him, the price has to be right.
I don’t know what sort of money is being talked about, but the deal has to suit us - and if that means a decent sell-on fee or buyback clause for Spurs, then so be it. If we back ourselves to turn this lad into the top player that his potential as a youngster suggests he could be, then his success would be our success - simple as that.
Andrew Smithson says…
There is a definite pattern to the recruitment at Sunderland and it feels very exciting.
If this story is true, it suggests that the club liked what they saw from Clarke last season, and think they can develop him even further- which is exactly the type of signing we should be making.
It means we have players that can do a job for the team now, but also offers the chance of a possible resale down the line should things pan out that way - which is what we’ll have to do fairly regularly if we are to become sustainable.
Although some areas of his game do need improvement, Clarke can undoubtedly be a game-changer on his day, as he showed at Sheffield Wednesday.
He has the technical ability and enough experience of the Championship to be a real danger man, and having experienced a few moves and loans already, he might appreciate the chance to settle down and really get going at one club.
Any transfer has an element of risk, but we know what we are getting here. In the right environment and with the right application, Clarke could have a great future on Wearside.
Martin Wanless says…
Clarke was a funny one for me last season.
He started off promisingly, faded a bit with a string of inconsistent performances (albeit it with a few assists and a very good goal), but then excelled in the second leg of the playoffs at Sheffield Wednesday. In fact, whilst it was very much a team performance, without Clarke’s second half showing, it’s doubtful whether we’d have reached Wembley.
I think that inconsistency is just down to his inexperience – he’s a young player, and by virtue of that, he’s going to be inconsistent.
As football fans, we often fall into the trap of judging players definitively very early on, and not appreciating their need to grow, improve and get better at what they do. Clarke is a player who needs an opportunity to do just that.
The rumoured fee of £3.5m likely includes some substantial add-ons based on Clarke’s performances and Sunderland’s overall achievements, and I think it’s well worth paying.
He’s got a ton of potential. He carries the ball very well, has pace, can create and also has a good shot on him.
He’s young, he’s inexperienced, but similarly to Patrick Roberts and Dennis Cirkin, if we can give him a home and an environment to flourish we could both reap the rewards.
The lads talked on the podcast this week about establishing our identity as a club – that identity being a home for good, talented youngsters who either need to restart their career or simply take their first steps from Premier League under-23s to first-team football.
Signing Clarke would be a really strong statement of intent in that regard – and would further establish that identity in the minds of other young pros who are on the Premier League fringes.
So it’s a firm yes from me – with the caveat that he’ll need us to be patient, as that inconsistency will still be there in the new season.
Damian Brown says...
I don’t think people give Clarke enough respect. I feel like he’s held up to higher standards than our standard squad.
I’d love to see him commit to us body and soul. He’s been ‘at Sunderland’ like that’s a bad place to be, when in fact it could and likely be the place to be for someone of his potential. His talent is evident, and he’s young enough to take on board necessary criticism that could hone him into a properly sharpened weapon.
I never really saw the worst of the lad that some others saw last season. I think he is as he comes across, and that’s like a true quantity that can be carved out of the final sculpture.
Whenever I saw him, he put real effort in and threw his body on the line in moments where those things matter. Though played in a fashion that reflected his lack of real value to the club, he seemed to excel after he struggled as much as any newborn player. I think he would be a valuable addition to the side.