Steve Bruce has pulled off a masterstroke getting Newcastle United to offer Ciaran Clark a new two-year contract.
The Magpies have announced that Clark has signed a new deal at St. James’ Park, keeping the Republic of Ireland international under contract on Tyneside through to the summer of 2023.
Clark was due to become a free agent at the end of the current season after entering into the final six-months of the £35,000-per-week terms agreed under Rafa Benitez in 2016.
Clark moved to the north-east from Aston Villa in a £5m deal following the Toon’s relegation to the Championship, and was named as United’s Player of the Year after helping to secure their return to the Premier League with 14 clean sheets over his 34 second-tier outings.
Since returning from a nine-month lay-off with an ankle injury in November, Clark has become a key aspect of Bruce’s backline as the first-choice left-sided option, starting Newcastle’s last 10-straight top-flight games.
Clark had begun attracting interest from Premier League rivals Crystal Palace due to his impending free-agent status, with the Eagles considering the 31-year-old as a potential replacement for Mamadou Sakho at Selhurst Park.
Newcastle tieing Clark down to a two-year contract comes as a clear sign of the Toon giving their backing to Bruce and his vision for the club, after the Magpies boss had called for the £4.5m-rated brute to be given a new deal.
“He’s not an unsung hero to me, Ciaran is a really good player who gives you a nice balance with his left foot,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live. “We’d like to keep him at the club. I think he deserves that, and he has played very well for me.”
It should only be seen as a masterstroke by Bruce to get Newcastle to commit to Clark, who former teammate Daryl Murphy lauds as a “no-nonsense” ball player, even though he was initially signed for a season in the Championship.
Clark has come on leaps and bounds from being someone needed to take the second-tier by storm, to become arguably the most important centre-back at St. James’ Park over the past few months.
One of his best traits is in taking control of the air and protecting Karl Darlow in goal with few Premier League defenders more successful in the duel than Clark, who wins four a game on average – only Leeds United’s Liam Cooper (4.33) and Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard (4.15) fare better, among those who have featured more than five times this season, per SofaScore.
Clark’s four aerial duels won a game is also the same as Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, the £80m man signed for a world-record fee for a defender. The 31-year-old is not afraid to carry the ball out from the back, either, with 0.3 successful dribbles – more than that achieved by full-backs DeAndre Yedlin (0.17) and Javier Manquillo (0).
Bruce also sees Clark dictate how the Magpies play out from the back with 35.9 passes a game, more than any other Toon defender, while Fabian Schar is the only member to break up opposition play more often with 1.73 interceptions to the Republic of Ireland ace’s 1.5.
Newcastle would have had to find a mine to unearth as much gold in the transfer market than they have hit by retaining Clark.
AND in other news, Newcastle face heightened competition for a £2.7m target…