Jack Clarke is a player who, despite being only twenty two years old, has played for numerous clubs during his short career.
Starting at Leeds United in 2018/2019, he played twenty two games under Marcelo Bielsa and attracted the attention of Tottenham Hotspur, where he moved for a fee reported to be £10 million.
His spell at Spurs didn’t work out, and he ended up going out on loan to both QPR and Stoke City, where he made a total of twenty appearances across both spells and scored no goals.
He then joined Sunderland, initially on loan, in January 2022.
When the club announced his signing, I was extremely optimistic, as I remembered watching him in a Leeds shirt and coming to the conclusion that he was a player with huge potential.
He broke into a Sunderland side that was scrapping to get out of League One, which we eventually succeeded in doing with a victory over Wycombe in the 2021/2022 League One playoff final.
Clarke registered one goal and three assists in his twenty games in the third tier, and although the numbers may have suggested a struggle, the quality was clearly there.
When we signed Clarke permanently in the summer of 2022, like many Sunderland fans, I was delighted.
He was a player with previous Championship experience and with himself and Patrick Roberts retained from the League One promotion season, we’d certainly built an attack that could hurt defences.
However, Clarke’s improvement during the last twelve months has been dramatic, and last season was his most consistent and prolific to date as he thrived in a young, attacking and possession-based side, and was one of the first names on the team sheet every week.
He scored in the opening day draw against Coventry City at the Stadium of Light and never looked back.
In the Championship, he scored nine goals and registered twelve assists as we finished in sixth place and reached the playoffs against all the odds, but it wasn’t just the goals and assists that caught the eye of many.
Clarke’s ability to run with the ball, to turn defenders inside and out and track back to help out defensively often goes unnoticed. He isn’t just a skilful player; he’s got the lot, and the quality he produces is now more consistent.
After a successful season, Premier League clubs were linked with a move for Clarke, with Burnley putting in numerous bids which were quickly rejected, and he was also rumoured to be linked with Brentford and Crystal Palace.
Thankfully, the transfer window is now closed and Clarke remains a Sunderland player.
He’s a player with great ability, we’re a much better side with him in it, and he’s started this season with two goals in our first five Championship games.
The aim for him now must be to reach double figures in both goals and assists in the league, and he certainly has the quality and ability to do it as part of such a young and exciting side.