Newcastle fell to a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea on Sunday without arguably their two best players, but fans can take a lot of optimism from the performance of Ciaran Clark.
Newcastle fans were stunned when the club released the line-up for the clash with Chelsea, as it did not feature Jamaal Lascelles or Jonjo Shelvey.
The confusion only increased, as the club’s official word on Lascelles was an ankle injury, but multiple reports claimed the defender has argued with Rafael Benitez in training.
No matter the cause, the Toon Army would certainly be worried about facing any spell of games without their skipper, but the performance of Clark should at least settle the nerves around St. James’ Park.
The Irish defender, who played 34 Championship games the season before last, fell out of favour last year as he simply wasn’t up to the standard that Lascelles and Florian Lejeune were playing at.
Lejeune’s injury and Lascelles’ mysterious absence opened the door for a return though, as the 29-cap Republic of Ireland international started alongside two new signings in a back three.
Clark certainly wasn’t perfect, but the 28 year-old did everything he could to keep the Blues at bay, winning three aerial duels and three tackles.
His three aerial duels were the joint-most of any player, and he also made a remarkable eight clearances, the most of anyone on the pitch.
The Magpies signed Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez late on in the transfer window, so if Clark can keep up his form they will actually have some quality depth behind Lascelles when he returns.
The lack of depth at full back is still a major concern, but Clark’s performance on Sunday showed he is ready and waiting when called upon.
So, Newcastle fans, were you impressed by Clark on Sunday? Should he start alongside Lascelles when everyone is fit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…