Rising star Clark sets sights on Huddersfield joining Premier elite

There exists on YouTube a Tyne Tees TV interview with Kevin Keegan and some of his 1993 Newcastle United players standing on the St James's Park terraces the day after securing promotion to the Premier League.

It is striking for the youthfulness of a 42-year-old Keegan and the state of a stadium on the verge of transformation. Sporting the classic scally look of shaven head and tracksuit, meanwhile, is a bubbly Lee Clark, then 20.

To the casual observer, this would be the same Geordie japester who six years later wore an anti-Sunderland t-shirt when supporting Newcastle at the FA Cup final while an employee of the Wearsiders – an offence for which he was sacked (and which he recalls with regret as "totally uncharacteristic and unprofessional").

Yet it is a perception that does a disservice to a man who has not become by chance one of English football's brightest young managers. Even as a promising teenage midfielder, Clark was planning a career in management, building for today when he hopes to take a step towards another promotion with a Huddersfield Town side facing Bournemouth in the League One play-off semi-finals.

When Clark, 38, says he wanted to become a manager "from 16", it is no exaggeration. In 1988, with the help of Brian Clark – a Newcastle United scout who had managed him at Wallsend Boys Club manager – he set up Walker Central, a football club named after the deprived area where he grew up.

Brian Clark says he was a natural. "He was the coach and I was the figurehead. He was with us 'till 1992 and for those four years Walker Central won everything. We had the gym for an hour and ten minutes on Thursday night and he'd be another hour in the changing room telling the kids what he wanted."

Clark was soon absorbing lessons from his own managers. "From an early age I used to take notes at training sessions – what we did, the tactics that were used and how managers would react to different scenarios."

With Keegan, he witnessed the alchemist's touch. "He made you feel the best. When you went out at five to three, you felt like the best player in the world." Clark also cites the man-management skills of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Peter Reid, while Jean Tigana at Fulham opened his eyes to "fitness, nutrition, diet, training methods".

Clark, after assisting Glenn Roeder at Newcastle and Norwich, took the step up with Huddersfield in 2008. He steered them to sixth place last term before a play-off semi-final loss to Millwall. With the support of an equally ambitious chairman, Dean Hoyle, wealthy from the sale of his greetings-card business, Huddersfield bounced back this season, finishing third. Clark prefers a passing game but they can now "win matches in different manners. The second half of the season, 25 unbeaten, we've shown that," he says.

Huddersfield visit Bournemouth on the back of a club-record run of six straight away wins. They have benefited from Clark's tactical flexibility: dropping top scorer Jordan Rhodes for away games, with Benik Afobe, on loan from Arsenal, up front. Hull's Kevin Kilbane and Bolton's Danny Ward have also proved astute loan signings.

Steve Watson, now development coach at Huddersfield, is not surprised by the impact of his old Newcastle team-mate who was "always very vocal about his football". Watson worked under David Moyes at Everton and notes a similarity. "[Clark] is a hands-on coaching manager, he enjoys coaching and when he is coaching he has the same type of intensity as Moyes."

Clark's own matter-of-fact responses suggest a man in a hurry. "I want to work at the highest level I can and the highest level is the Premier League. That is where I want to be, as quickly as possible." And with Huddersfield? "Why not?" he says. "It's not easy [but] it is do-able."

Spoken like a Geordie Messiah.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on