I have no shame in admitting that I was wrong about Clarke.
Prior to the final few games of last season, I didn’t really get it with Clarke. And to be fair, I’m not sure Alex Neil did either, as he featured but not as heavily as he has this time around in the Championship.
I guess that Clarke is a shining example of why Sunderland is such a great place for quality young players to come and hone their craft.
He’s improved at a ridiculous rate over the last nine months, something that wouldn’t have been possible if he’d stayed at Tottenham.
There’s still so much more room for improvement, though. Often in games you don’t really notice Clarke or his impact for most of it, but then he’ll pop up with a moment of quality to get us a goal - and that’s why he should always be on the pitch when fit.
He’s stepped up to the plate massively in Stewart’s absence, and once we get back underway next season I’m keen to see how much his all-round game improves without the pressure of needing to give the team as many goals at crucial points in games.
If Jack can go from where he is currently to a more well-rounded player that is consistent over ninety minutes as opposed to in short bursts, he’ll be playing for a top team in the Premier League again at some point in the next few seasons - though this time he will have truly earnt it.
Anthony Gair says…
I think Clarke’s improvement began before Tony Mowbray took charge.
Under Alex Neil, he was showing glimpses of being an incredible member of the side, when attacking directly down the wings.
Since Mowbray’s arrival, however, he’s come on leaps and bounds. You can see the lad emanating confidence from every pore, and he’s loving his time here.
The unfortunate thing is that he’ll be sought after in the transfer window, and his style of play is suited to that of the Premier League: a direct running winger who cuts inside and has a pop.
The only argument I can offer for him staying at Sunderland is that he’d likely progress better here with the stability of first team football, and the other young lads who he plays alongside are growing closer and closer with each week that passes.
For me, he’s first player on the team sheet and long may that continue.
Kingsley Reavley says…
Clarke had a somewhat stop/start professional career before joining Sunderland.
A big money move to Tottenham ultimately didn’t work, before a series of loans where he never really seemed to settle or get into a solid routine of games.
Naturally, this will have had an adverse impact on his career, causing frustration while also hindering his development.
It’s commendable that we’ve given him a home, helped him to settle and provided the platform for him to showcase his talent. Now both parties are reaping the rewards with an impressive goal and assist return during his first full season in the Championship.
He’s the type of player that gets you off your seat and makes buying a ticket seem worthwhile, and his attributes speak for themselves.
He’s strong with both feet, quick, skilful, composed, agile, a good finisher and with an excellent passing range as displayed in the switch of play to Amad for the winning goal on Saturday.
On top of all that, he’s also added a degree of consistency to his game along with increased tenacity when defending. He’s gone from being seen as something of a luxury player when he first signed to a vital component and one of the first names on the team sheet.
Some credit has to go to the coaching staff, but mostly it’s down to his hard work and dedication to succeed.
The vultures could well begin to circle for his signature at some point, but I’d like to think the fact he’s playing the best football of his career in front of forty thousand fans and a head coach who has implicit trust in him should mean it would have to be something very special to turn his head.
In the meantime, with him in such a rich vein of form I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the remaining four, or maybe seven games of the season.