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Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - MKM Stadium

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Jack Clarke, Sunderland's latest centurion!

The winger made his one hundredth appearance for the Lads against Hull City on Friday night, and Gary Engel looks back over his time at the Stadium of Light so far

Photo by Ian Hodgson/PA Images via Getty Images

Before last Friday’s game against Hull City, Sunderland’s league position- despite the turmoil of the past couple of months- looked fairly rosy, which is mainly down to the goals from Jack Clarke this season.

Indeed, Clarke has evolved from a flying winger to a wide forward, no doubt due to necessity rather than design.

However, it’s fair to say that without him, we’d be in a relegation scrap already this season.

On Friday, he celebrated one hundred appearances in Sunderland colours and somewhat ironically, both his first and hundredth seem to bookend our worst moments of recent times.

I was at Bolton in 2022 for his debut in a match that probably marked our lowest ebb. Yet against the backdrop of surrender, he looked like an exciting prospect and his neat touch was clear to see.

Much like his first match, Clarke’s hundredth game saw the tide turn against Sunderland and probably the head coach, but for now, we’ll reflect on some of his brighter moments as a Black Cat.

The first is something we Mackems probably played on a loop during that night in the autumn of 2022. Under Tony Mowbray, the young players were really starting to click into gear and Clarke finished the move of the match and arguably of the 2022/2023 season, down at Reading.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

We casually played the ball out from our own box before swiftly and seamlessly moving the ball down the right hand side with sublime one touch passing. Dan Neil then played an arcing ball to the onrushing Clarke just inside the Reading box, who finished calmly.

The next moment that highlights just how far Clarke has come was earlier this season when we played Sheffield Wednesday away from home.

We were already one up when Clarke, typically the furthest player forward, took control of a long ball on the left around thirty yards from goal.

With the majority of the defence in front of him, he began to head forwards before cutting inside to take a shot from twenty yards. He was quite confident of scoring from distance, as were his teammates as they looked on.

As for my favourite Clarke match or moment, it has to be the home game against Rotherham from 2022/2023.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It was possibly the first time he showcased his ability to rip into teams and lay chances on a plate for an out-and-out striker (remember one of those?), not to mention his quality in front of goal.

He rounded off the night with the pick of the goals, a mazy run and cool reverse finish. It had Mowbray and the fans purring that night and showed Clarke as a genuine star in the making.

The free flowing football of the second half against Rotherham last year was in stark contrast to our slow and predictable so-called build-up play of late.

Let’s hope for more moments of brilliance from our lad, Jack.

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