Lee Clark: performance, personality, predictions


October 13, 2012 by Made In Brum

Despite fine intentions and an obvious desire to succeed, Lee Clark has failed in every key area of his job. His summer signings have been, without exception, useless. He has no idea what constitutes his best XI, or even his best formation. Not only is his football unattractive, he seems to have no overall footballing philosophy whatsoever.

He does not command the respect or attention of his players. His post-match comments after last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Huddersfield confirmed the obvious: he has lost the dressing room – if he ever had it. Regulars who were prepared to bust a gut for Chris Hughton now look like they don’t want to be on the pitch. Keith Fahey and Chris Burke were likely among the “four or five players” who Clark accused of being unwilling to put in a tackle.

Huddersfield fans leaving St. Andrews echoed our suspicions about their former manager: despite being an honest, decent bloke, he lacks the nous to succeed at this level. In three years with the Terriers, he never figured out his best XI, “apart from one with a non-existent midfield,” one Town fan recalled. Worse still: “He produced some of the most dire, boring, puerile, mind-numbingly awful football I have ever had the misfortune to see.” Sadly, this all rings true.

Clark’s only solution to the mess he finds himself in at Blues appears to be to work harder. He prides himself on giving his all. His entire self-image is based on being a hard worker, a fighter, a man of passion. This came up again in his post-match interview when he harked back to his playing days without any prompting: “You see the size of me, I’m not a big fella but I competed, I put my head in there, I put my foot in there.” Indeed, he is the no-nonsense Geordie battler.

Listen to any of Clark’s comments and it is really the only thing that comes across: passion; commitment. Admirable traits, to be sure. Clark wore his heart on his sleeve as a player, and does the same as a manager – take a glance at the dugout during matches and see him pacing back and forth and throwing his arms around as he chomps on his chewing gum. Hints of tactical genius or even whiffs of football intelligence are sadly few and far between.

Alas, some may question the intellect in general of a man who thought it wise to oblige when Huddersfield fans started a tongue-in-cheek “Lee Clark, give us a wave” chant last week. Of course, this is the same man who, whilst playing for Sunderland, went out in public wearing a t-shirt calling their fans “sad Mackem bastards.” He explained the latter incident by citing his passion for Newcastle: “Everyone knows I’m Newcastle through and through.”

Passion, when not channelled intelligently, can be problematic. It can lead to the kind of training ground and dressing room bust-ups Clark is rumoured to have had with several players at both Huddersfield and Blues. In one story doing the rounds, Ravel Morrison is said to have head-butted Clark during a row at Wast Hills. Certainly something is amiss if our most creative central midfielder cannot get in a team that is crying out for creativity in central midfield.

There may also be a rift between the manager and the normally-affable Nikola Zigic, who has barely seen the pitch since scoring two goals in the first two games as sub and then starting in the third, a 2-0 defeat at Watford. Confusion abounds.

What we need most at this moment is not just a trier, but a manager with experience and a bit of self-assured know-how, who will command respect and bring calm to the dressing room. Clark has much to learn if he is to become a good manager at Championship level. There likely isn’t time for it to happen at Blues.

The players, who he has turned to scalding in the press, are tuning him out, perhaps turned off by his inexperience, his curious team selections, his combative personality, his Geordie accent, or some combination of the above. The St. Andrews crowd, more patient than most, has also begun to turn on him, briefly chanting “4-4-2” during the last game and groaning at his substitutions. Attendances have gone down the toilet.

A major turn-around from this point (meaning competing for a play-off spot) would be welcome, but it would also be unprecedented. When will the misery end?

The club is too skint for the board to want to pay off his contract at this stage, so he won’t be sacked in the foreseeable future. Blues fans yearning for a change can only hope he will resign if things continue to get worse. Clark was said to be “too embarrassed to walk the streets” of Birmingham earlier in the season; presumably he is now scared to even venture into his own garden. He has looked dishevelled in televised interviews, his wife was spotted crying as Blues lost 5-0 to Barnsley, and his son has been repeatedly abused by fans on Twitter.

How long can the Clark household endure this punishing existence? A while longer yet, I suspect, if Lee has his way. Beware the self-image of Geordie battler mentioned above: “quit” is not a word in his vocabulary, I’m sure he would tell us. Even after the Barnsley Massacre, there was apparently no thought of resigning in his mind.

As bad as most of the performances have been, Blues are still only six points off the play-off places. Whilst there is still hope, Clark will continue to pledge hard work and commitment. Thus we can expect a few more depressing debacles to add to the already sizeable list of Clark calamities: Sheffield Wednesday away, Watford away, Coventry away, Barnsley at home, and Huddersfield at home. High-flying Leicester visit St. Andrews next, and they must be salivating.

By David Brown
Follow him on Twitter: @DavoBirmingham


15 thoughts on “Lee Clark: performance, personality, predictions

  1. will57 says:

    If his son has been abused on twitter then that’s a disgrace on Blues fans everywhere. End of.

  2. richhey says:

    Good article – well written. As a Huddersfield fan, this is complete De Ja Vu. The only difference was that we were in League One with a bigger budget than most to disguise his shortfalls. Sadly, we were ridiculed nationally when he was sacked – people did not look beyond the results alone. Wish you all the best for the rest of the season.

  3. Huw says:

    Decent enough bloke but failed to convince at Huddersfield despite having an almost unlimited budget by L1 standards. For every good signing – Rhodes and Pilkington were great ones- there were 2 or 3 that were seemed to take the team backwards. He was always very sensitive to criticism and at one time threatened to cut off all dialogue with Radio Leeds after a reporter questioned his tactics. Town’s long unbeaten run involved some of the most boring football I’ve ever seen. That said he is hardworking and passionate but again appears to have landed a job that his lack of experience and success suggest may be beyond him.

    • Davo says:

      Interesting tidbit about Clark vs Radio Leeds. Doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence, does it? It again suggests to me that he’s overly combative and a little insecure.

  4. Johnson Long says:

    The fans who’re obsessed with 442 are even more stupid than the manager himself. This British 442 obsession is what is holding us back as a developing football country… This rigid and outdated formation which is rarely used afar from these shores needs to be sent packing. Sadly the Geordie raasclown can’t get any formation to work – the Hudds fans I spoke to told me they were even worse playing 442 than 1 up front.

    • johnhudds says:

      4-4-2 is NOT holding us back as a country, it is the amount of foreigners in our top flight, far too many.

      • Made In Brum says:

        To be fair, how many top teams play 442 now? United often play 451 or 433. Chelsea play with one up front. Spain don’t always use a striker, opting for 460. England must be the only ‘top’ (if you can call us that) who still play 442. Its too narrow, too predictable.

        Its not playing 451 that is negative, it is the way you play it. Does any call Alex Ferguson negative when he plays with one striker? Do the United fans chant ‘442, 442’?

  5. Andy F says:

    May I suggest Clark is not the sharpest tool in the box?

    Taking this job was crazy in the first place. Replacing a popular manager who guided you through a testing Europa campaign and getting you to the play offs, well I think Clark has bitten off more than he can chew and with it a bigger crowd and more demanding support. He should have swallowed his pride and taken a coaching job somewhere and reestablished himself. Badly advised by his old school mates who are just along for the cash ride again.

    Start again in coaching Lee and take your time..

    Huddersfield Town supporter wishing you luck.

    • johnhudds says:

      I am a Town fan of 32 years, Lee & Peter Jackson who I have nothing personal against as people, could not take us forward from the lower divisions, despite the mass money (divisional-wise) Clark had. However saying they are nice people & passionate, does not make them good managers. Our best managers in my 32 years following Town were, Buxton, Warnock, Bruce & Grayson.

      • John Vasey says:

        Agree with you on some points but none of the managers you mentioned went 45 games unbeaten. We were 3rd when SG took over and at the end only just scrapped into the playoffs which we won by the skin of our teeth on pens. Without LC being there originally the club would still be in League 1. Buxton/Warnock I agree for sure. Bruce, please give me a break

      • Ashley Almond. says:

        Its difficult to believe that Grayson can be one of your best managers when he has barely been at town for two minutes, he may become a legend like Buxton but get a grip. Bruce was ultimately a failure.

  6. John Vasey says:

    To have a go at his son is ridiculous, shows a lack of class. Im not like a lot of other Huddersfield fans. Whatever you think about him, he managed over a team that has the 2nd best undefeated record behind Arsenal in the history of the game. Saying that most were draws is untrue. During that spell the team averaged 1.9 points per game, which would usually win promotion in any league. And town fans, just think back to March when Leicester City had him almost in there clutches. Town fans everywhere were sickened at the thought. I was one of the fans who thought it was a mistake to fire him and have enjoyed eating humble pie ever since. That said he is not in any way the bad manager he is made out to be, plus he signed Rhodes and Pilkington which basically got the Team over $10 million of transfer fees plus was partially responsible for promotion. Just my 2 cents…. good luck moving forward

  7. Letsby Avenue says:

    Can at least ONE thing be clarified, to get us out of the realms of terrace mythology?
    Clark was sacked overnight – NOT because of a result…..NOT because of a bad run of form…..NOT because of crowd dis-pleasure/tactics etc etc
    Lee Clark was sacked by his longtime friend and owner of Huddersfield for what was perceived as a lack of loyalty.
    Leeds and Leicester both ‘leaked’ interest in the rising star publicly and although Clark didn’t respond there remained the suspiscion that he might do a Lambert or a McLeish.
    Never in a million years would Clark have been sacked for what he did for Huddersfield, and what Grayson has has publicly acknowledged.

  8. Ashley Almond. says:

    Ash Hudds. Quick question, if Brum went on a 40 game unbeaten run and ended up roughly 3rd in the Championship, what would be your opinion or Clark then?

  9. Terrier says:

    Clark had a budget that made us the Man City of lge 1 and in 3 years we got nowhere and played boring football. In fairness, though the unbeaten run consisted of 25 wins and 18 draws, so it annoys me when people say it was “mostly draws”. Also, sorry to go off the subject matter, but I also hear alot of people say we only just got in the playoffs last season under Grayson. We got 26 points from 16 games under him and got in comfortably. Also when did Peter Jackson have money to spend? He spent 125 k in transfer fees after selling Stead for £1.25 million.

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