Canary call tempts Clark from his roots

CHRIS LAKEY The lure of northern Spain and the home fires of Tyneside couldn't compete with homely Norwich City and new manager Glenn Roeder when it came to deciding the future of Lee Clark.


The lure of northern Spain and the home fires of Tyneside couldn't compete with homely Norwich City and new manager Glenn Roeder when it came to deciding the future of Lee Clark.

The new Canaries assistant is Newcastle through and through, but even the persuasive powers of Sam Allardyce couldn't convince the ambitious 35-year-old that his future was running the reserves side at St James Park.

Even when former manager Chris Coleman called from the Basque stronghold of San Sebastian suggesting maybe a move to Real Sociedad would be good for the CV, Clark wasn't tempted.

But then came the call from Roeder which, presumably, went something like: "I've been made manager of Norwich City. Fancy being my assistant? It would be the perfect next step if you want to become a manager yourself one day."

A few days later, Clark was travelling south, ready to take training on Saturday, the day before the big East Anglian derby clash at Carrow Road.

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For a man born in Wallsend, the same town that produced Bobby Robson and Steve Bruce, and who freely admits his love for the Magpies, it appeared to be a tough decision - until he's asked what lured him away from Tyndeside. The first word he utters - ambition - makes it quite clear what sort of character Roeder has brought in.

"I am a very ambitious man," said Clark. "The position I held at Newcastle was a great position, but to come to a Championship club that really should be in the Premiership in terms of the facilities, and be the assistant manager was something that I wanted to do because Glenn knows what my ambitions are.

"I want one day to become a manager myself, so this is the next step in line for me. It is all about ambition and to work for such a terrific club, which I have found out over the last few days since I have been here is what made me make the decision.

"That decision was never easy because I was working for a club that is very, very close to my heart. It just shows you the pull of Norwich City.

"When I spoke with Sam on Wednesday morning he tried to convince me to stay. I did have a good relationship with him before when I was a player at Sunderland - he was head of the Academy for a couple of months before he took over at Notts County so I knew him well and enjoyed working with him.

"I hope he goes on to be a big success there, and if he is a success, he has Nigel Pearson and Steve Round as his first team coaches, that means that those positions would be filled.

"I am an ambitious man, I didn't want to stay as reserve team manager at Newcastle, even though it's a club I love, for five, 10, 15 years. I want to be a manager in my own right one day and the progression is very important to me, and all the other factors that come into it."

Clark said there had been talks with Coleman, but not of the sort that Roeder and Norwich City embarked upon last week.

"It is something we spoke about," said Clark. "Obviously I have got a close link with Chris, but my loyalties are that it was going to take a fantastic offer to get me away.

"He understood. I have spoken to him since it happened and he is delighted for me."

Roeder clearly has a lot of pull.

"I have known Glenn a long, long time," explained Clark. "When I was a 14-year-old schoolboy who Newcastle were trying entice to sign there - they didn't really have to do much to be honest with you - Glenn was the club captain at the time and on school holidays I would come in and train with the first team and Glenn was obviously captain and showed a lot of patience with me and spent a lot of time. So I have known him a long time. When I was in the England squad under Glenn Hoddle, Glenn was one of the coaches there, so there is a lot of history between the two of us."

When Clark, who turned down an offer to move to Carrow Road during John Deehan's reign as manager, is asked to sum up his character, the Tyneside accent seems to get just that bit stronger.

"I am a passionate man. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am what they call in the north-east a man's man," he said.

"I try and do things the right way, try and do my job to the best of my ability, give everything in everything I do, and that's the way I will be approaching this job, trying to give the players as much help as they possibly can get and do the best for this football club and try over the two-and-a-half years I am here getting it back to where it should be."

What comes after that, not even Clark knows.