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
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Sport
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game