The Good Friday shoot-out against Hull City was chaotic from the off, and it showed the best and worst of Sunderland this season. One of the better aspects was just how good we looked on the counter attack, with Jack Clarke leading the way with his best ever match in the red and white.
In a match where shambolic defending threatened to steal the show, Clarke stood up and played like a man possessed. A goal and two fine assists were rewards for an all round performance. The work rate and general off and on the ball play made Clarke an absolute nightmare for the Hull back line to deal with.
Clarke was in the mood on Friday, and every time he got the ball it looked as though something would happen. The ball stuck to his feet like a magnet, and his attacking intent fired us forward and carved out chances from seemingly thin air.
Not for a long time have we had a player who is willing to pick up the ball and run at the opposite full back. His energy and commitment to the cause has been a constant throughout the season - and this has been recognised in his stats for the season. Nine assists and 10 goals have played a significant part in our solid return to the Championship - even if he could and should have had an extra goal against Hull.
What Clarke offers is just a piece of the puzzle which has fit together so well this season. His positive thinking against Hull was complimented by a stunning display by Amad Diallo. The pair gave a relentless performance and were both heavily involved in our goals - it’s a huge shame only one of them is our player.
What I love about Clarke is that he so obviously runs himself into the ground every match. He chases down everything and makes things happen going forward, but what stood out for me on Friday was his defensive contribution.
His tracking back to help out Lynden Gooch - who himself was poor in comparison to his display at Burnley - helped to break down plenty of attacks and his work rate very nearly got us over the line. Unfortunately it was sloppy defending from our actual defenders which ultimately cost us.
As this season has progressed, Clarke has grown into one of our most dangerous players. He will be without a doubt a player who receives lots of attention in the summer and big offers will likely come our way sooner rather than later.
For me, Clarke will be the player who receives the most attention as injuries to Ballard and Stewart - players who would also be sought after - should fend off a lot of interest. As great as it is for us to have him performing like he did on Friday, there is always that worry he is putting himself in the shop window.
Jack Clarke for me is an all-round fantastic winger. He plays with heart and passion, whilst also having the ability to get the job done. In Clarke, we’ve got someone who epitomises what we want to do as a club and which direction we want to go in.