A Newcastle manager in waiting?

It’s every black and white clad Geordie’s dream to see one of their own leading their beloved Newcastle United from the dugout with some believing it a necessity for the club to achieved glory. Despite the Magpies being under the stewardship of Londoner Alan Pardew and sitting pretty after an unbeaten start to the Premier League season talk of a Geordie one day inhabiting the St James’ Park managers office still persists. Unfortunately for supporters there are very few out there in the footballing world with Huddersfield Town boss and former Newcastle hero Lee Clark the only real candidate should much maligned owner ever decide to to go Geordie once again. The last time he appointed a man so close to the club it ended in disaster with the clubs legendary record goalscorer Alan Shearer guiding the Toon Army through the relegation trap door and into the Championship. His lack of coaching and management skills were evident during his eight game spell in charge although few if any blame the striker turned pundit for the clubs eventual demise. As soon as Clark stepped into the world of management he was already being groomed for Tynesides biggest managerial position. But is he a future Newcastle United manager in the making?

Of course the former midfielder has close ties with his hometown club having spent two spells at St James’ playing over 260 games and becoming a key member of Kevin Keegan’s ‘entertainers’ who fought tooth and nail to usurp Manchester United at the Premier League summit during the mid-nineties. Born and bred in Wallsend and coming through famous youth academy before joining Newcastle you could say that he has a connection with supporters and understands the pressures that the managers job brings with success desperately craved by the faces in the stands. It’s no lie that Geordie’s are a sentimental bunch and have often overlooked qualifications and expertise in favour of an individual who has a past affinity with the club. Keegan’s second spell in charge was a complete disaster after his self imposed three year exile from the game putting him at a disadvantage in modern football whilst Shearer’s tenure was doomed before it even began. Both mistakes made by the owner who must now be put off from appointing someone who has black and white flowing through their veins. Does this put Clark at a disadvantage? In my opinion it would with Ashley more than likely keen to avoid another fierce backlash when things go south under the leadership of one of their own. But it would be wrong to overlook Clark’s adeptness as a manager and he has made a favourable impression since taking over at the Galpharm Stadium in 2008.

Despite failing to get the Terriers out of League One he has turned their fortunes around and they are now considered one of the best teams in the division with a real chance of gaining promotion to the Championship. In his two full seasons in charge Clark has taken Huddersfield into the play-offs after years of mid-table obscurity. He’s instilled an attacking mentality into the players that bears a striking resemblance to the swashbuckling Newcastle side of the nineties. Despite winning many admirers on the back of his relevant success in West Yorkshire to suggest he is ready for top flight management in the near future is extremely naive. Everyone remembers Paul Ince’s unsuccessful jump from League One to the Premier League when he left MK Dons to manage Blackburn Rovers. Despite the success achieved with Milton Keynes and his previous club Macclesfield Town the former England star had managed only 90 games in league football. His inadequacies and lack of practical knowledge saw his time at Ewood Park come to an end just seven months after taking over from former Man United teammate Mark Hughes. In is 21 games he only managed six wins with his summer signings and tactics leaving most Rovers fans bemused. Clark should be wary that he has only had one job, worked in one environment and has yet to be really challenged as a manager at a higher level.

If he is looking for a blueprint and someone to model himself on then he should look no further than Norwich boss Paul Lambert who managed three clubs and took in over 170 games before taking over at Carrow Road and leading them to the Premier League. The Scotsman has seen it all during his five-years as a boss gaining invaluable experience along the way during his time at Livingston, Colchester and Wycombe. It made him all the more stronger and accomplished to deal with the turmoil that gripped the Norfolk club and back-to-back promotions is testament to the work he has put into refining his management style. This is something Clark is in desperate need of and it would be interesting to see whether has gained the relevant expertise and credence to take a club in crisis or with limited funds and turn them around. He has yet to manage a club under serious constraints and that can be the making of a future top flight manager. There is no doubt Clark is a talented coach and the way his Huddersfield team function is indicative of his exuberant approach to football. At 38-years of age he is relative toddler in the world of football management and still open to adapting his methods and polishing his style in the dugout. It’s vital that he continues his education outside the top flight, takes on tougher challenges and becomes a more competent and well rounded manager. Whether he is given the chance in the future to take charge at Newcastle remains to be seen and it’s difficult to answer the question whether he could go on to prosper in that role. Seeing how he copes in a more forbidding environment should offer us a clearer picture because Newcastle isn’t exactly the most facile job in the world.

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