Tag Archives: Jack Clarke

Trauma and Relief as Kalvin Phillips Makes a Late Point for Leeds at Middlesbrough – by Rob Atkinson

Kalvin celebrating a late point-saver for Leeds at Middlesbrough

After Aston Villa’s late comeback against Sheffield United, Leeds United knew that a point at Middlesbrough would see them return, if only temporarily, to the Championship summit. And so it turned out, although the draw was only achieved at the last gasp of a lengthy stoppage period, which resulted from a traumatic scare over the health of teenage United star winger Jack Clarke.

Leeds had travelled north to Teesside bolstered by the fact that local rivals Sheffield United had failed to capitalise on their 3-0 lead at Villa Park and remained two points back in third place. With long term injury absentee Patrick Bamford starting his first league game for Leeds, and with the dependable Kalvin Phillips back in his defensive midfield role, Leeds were perhaps better equipped to meet the stern challenge of promotion rivals, as compared to their previous match at home to Norwich. They started brightly enough against a Middlesbrough side humbled at League Two Newport County in midweek. But the home side had the incentive of recovering from that humiliating Cup exit and, as the first half wore on, they began to trouble the Leeds defence.

Reaching the interval with the match goalless, Leeds must have been looking forward to taking greater control later on, with Pablo Hernandez replacing Jack Clarke in an effort to pierce the Boro defence. But only two minutes into the second half, Pablo was guilty of a bit of ball watching as Boro broke down the left wing, to put a dangerous ball across the edge of the Leeds box, where Lewis Wing found a smart finish to put the home side 1-0 up.

The remainder of the match was a troubled mixture of worry and frustration for Leeds, with young Jack Clarke taken ill on the Leeds bench and needing lengthy treatment with play held up. Clarke, 18, received first class treatment at the ground and was then taken to hospital for tests, with players on both sides clearly shaken that such a young player showed such alarming symptoms.

As play resumed, Boro did indeed tire after their exertions on a heavy pitch at Newport, and Leeds duly exerted some sort of control over proceedings. All of a sudden, the odds seemed much more in favour of United salvaging at least a point, or maybe even a crucial comeback victory. But the breaks still weren’t coming up front for all their attacking play, with some good chances created and missed, notably for Bamford and Kemar Roofe. Eventually, though, the pressure told and Boro were denied at the last gasp when Leeds United scored from a left wing corner. The ball found Liam Cooper, who headed powerfully goalwards where Phillips connected with the ball to dispatch the equaliser past Boro keeper Darren Randolph. The point-saving goal had come in the last of twelve added minutes, much to the joy and relief of the travelling United support who duly raised the roof of the Riverside Stadium.

A draw was probably a fair result, as each side had dominated half the game, though both would regret some missed opportunities to add to the scoring. All was well that ended well, with young Clarke evidently feeling better by the end of the day. And there was a classy touch from Boro manager Tony Pulis, who deflected questions about the lengthy stoppage time by saying  “The more important thing is making sure the boy, fingers crossed, hopefully the boy’s okay and he recovers because he’s a very, very talented young player. All our thoughts from Middlesbrough Football Club actually go to the lad Clarke.”

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Media Moving on from Spygate for Concerted Effort to Sell Leeds Star Jack Clarke – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United’s Jack Clarke – the poise of the matador

The UK sports media don’t like Leeds United to have nice things. The recent embarrassing emphasis on so-called “Spygate” – the sensational exposé of a man in a tracksuit on a public highway by a wire fence, failing to avert his eyes from the spectacle of some footballers training in plain sight – was of course intended to derail the United promotion bandwagon, but Leeds have still won eight of the last eleven and are clear at the the top. All the hacks have accomplished really is to emphasise their own essential silliness. So – what to do?

Well, it’s transfer window time and, for your average grubby hack with a Leeds-hating readership to satisfy, what better opportunity for the talking up of the latest United wonderkid in the hope of provoking an auction? Such seems to be the mindset of the gutter end of the media right now, not excluding our good friends at Sky, who are positively schizo over Leeds United, simultaneously hating and capitalising on Yorkshire’s number one football club. The current focus is on United’s Jack Clarke, a young wing wizard with that touch of genius about him. The hacks have seen this divine spark, have noted it well – and are determined to bring about his departure from Elland Road at the earliest opportunity.

The stories have cropped up thick and fast – mostly the former, it has to be said – over the past few days. One mischievous rag, conscious of Leeds fans’ lack of regard for Devon’s Finest, have even linked him with Manchester’s second biggest club. Perhaps they feel young Jack would prosper under what they’re selling as the Norwegian reincarnation of Matt Busby, clearly a better mentor than some Argie who sits on a bucket.

Sky were in on the act today as well, playing tempting clips of young Clarke bamboozling full-backs and sticking the ball in the net. It’s all designed to whip up interest from one or other of their favoured clubs because, alas, so far the only enquiries seem to have been  joke ones, from the likes of Crystal Palace and Southampton – hardly the stuff of a young winger’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jack is thriving at Leeds, in and around the first team, contributing solidly to the promotion push, and with the alluring prospect of a fat new contract and maybe a Championship winner’s medal in the offing. For those who wish Leeds ill, namely just about everyone who doesn’t bleed yellow blue and white, these are not good feelings.

Let’s be honest, Jack Clarke at 18 looks to be the real deal. He has that matador’s poise, the ability to play a bewildered defender into hopeless confusion and ultimate defeat. Only the other day, he destroyed the opposing Derby County full-back, who was promptly dispatched to Aberdeen with twisted blood, there to reflect and convalesce, having been replaced at Derby by a pensioner. Clarke has the nascent promise of a youthful Stan Matthews – there’s no deep, dark secret as to how he beats his man. He dances for a moment, in possession of the ball – will the defender sell himself, or just back off, quivering? Then – a drop of the shoulder, a change of pace, and Jack is gone, leaving his man in a crumpled heap, arrowing a deadly ball into the box, and Roofe is there to snap up the chance. Or maybe Clarke swerves back on his path into the box, and curls the ball inside the far post. You just don’t know, although that initial beating of the full back, that’s an open secret. You know how he’ll do that. But, as with Stan Matthews, stopping it is another matter entirely. The media knows all this, and they’re agreed: Clarke must go from Leeds.

But anyone who knows the game will know that Jack Clarke is in the best place he could be, especially at this time of his fledgling career. Quite apart from the material and competitive career rewards dangling in front of him, he’s working with the best coach in Marcelo Bielsa that he could possibly wish for, and in a team that might have been set up specifically to showcase his devastating talent. At eighteen, Clarke needs to be protected from the predatory and kept close to the nurturing influence from which he’s currently benefiting. Jack has the role models right now, in the coaching set up and alongside him in the team, that will give his genius the best chance of emerging in full bloom. To dump him into a so-called “elite” development squad would be to risk seeing that potential stifled, instead of being honed, as it is now, under Bielsa and alongside the likes of Pablo Hernandez.

Leeds United themselves, thankfully, seem to have become a lot more selective in terms of both squad augmentation and pruning. The development squad is being enhanced with a succession of quality additions, and the progression from there to first team level is a clear path. United also recognise and reward the diamonds yielded by this rich seam, polishing some for display on a grand stage, profiting from others judiciously, with the dividend being ploughed back. It’s a policy designed to reap ever richer harvests in the near future – showing that this is a club at long last on the right track. We can safely assume that United will no longer accept derisory offers from smaller clubs for a short term profit that denies them progress and a longer term bounty.

If I’m correct about all that, then – all media hue, cry and desperation notwithstanding – young Jack Clarke will remain exactly he is, shining and dazzling on either wing, tormenting opposing defences with his prodigious, precocious talent, in the colours of Leeds United, settled and happy on the brink of a sensational career. Which is exactly what we would all of us wish and hope for.

Sky Sports et al not included.

Can Wonderkid Jack Clarke Make Miraculous History for Leeds United? – by Rob Atkinson

…league games since United got a penalty kick

Leeds United’s teenage wonder and rumoured Manchester City target Jack Clarke is already making a considerable name for himself, on the back of a string of cameo performances that have seen him lend a new dimension to the Whites’ attacking play. No less a football authority than Clarke’s Elland Road manager, Marcelo Bielsa, has acknowledged the youngster’s potential to be a game changer, and it may even be that Clarke is destined to write himself into the history of Yorkshire’s No. 1 club by winning for them – whisper it in hushed tones – a penalty kick.

Some, of course, will dismiss this as fanciful in the extreme. There’s some justification for such cynical pessimism too – teams don’t go 58 games without a penalty (and having ten awarded against them over the same period) without some pretty determined referees being prepared to turn a blind eye and cock a deaf ear to all appeals, however much merit they may have. So why should a fleet-footed wide man, with consummate control and more tricks up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at, make any real difference?

The reason for guarded optimism lies in young Jack’s engaging ability to receive the ball in space out wide, in an onside position (unlike Alioski) and then jink and trick his way past his full back before making inroads into the opposition area (unlike Alioski). Keep doing this, and you’ll get chopped down in the box, sure as eggs are eggs. And keep getting chopped down in the box – well, surely you’re bound to get a decision sooner or later, even if you’ve got a Leeds United badge on your shirt.

And when that momentous penalty kick is awarded, maybe even this season, we might even manage to convert it, unless we’ve actually forgotten how it’s done. In which case, I do hope that the squad occasionally watch the video of last season’s shootout at Burnley in the Carabao Cup, when we made taking penalties look as easy as shelling peas. With that encouragement, anything is possible – but maybe I should just stop wishing for penalties, and enjoy how our heroes seem to be managing perfectly well without any.

Still – it would be nice. So make those runs, young Jack, commit those defenders and just hope that, when the referee does blow his whistle, it’s not just to book you for “diving”.

Leeds United Have TWO Jacks… But Will They Both be Aces? – by Rob Atkinson

City loanee and New York alumnus Jack Harrison

Manchester City’s Jack Harrison came on loan to Leeds United in the summer transfer window, with the plaudits of various football legends still ringing in his ears after a previous stint at New York’s Manhattan FC. He was rated the second best player under 24 in the MLS and has earned recognition at U21 level with England. So here, it was fair to assume, was a real prospect.

And, to be fair, Jack has had his moments in a Leeds shirt this season, notably a fine late strike to earn a point away at Millwall. But, overall, it’s probably equally fair to say that the Stoke born wide attacker hasn’t quite – so far, anyway – lived up to that stellar hype. It’s a case of much being expected of the lad, and yet this nagging feeling that he could and should be doing better – given his club pedigree and undoubted ability.

But there’s another (and increasingly impressive) Jack on Leeds United’s books in the shape of young Jack Clarke, who has started to get first team minutes on the back of some imperious displays at development level. Indeed, at one point, someone suggested with apparent sincerity that it really isn’t fair to play young Clarke at U23 level, as he’s just downright too good. Whatever the case, Jack has made his mark, and he seems certain to get the chance of more time in a first team shirt as the season goes on.

Young Jack Clarke celebrates with goal scorer Pontus Jansson

Clarke’s brief but impressive cameo at Blackburn Rovers recently may well have given Harrison something to ponder. The on-loan Jack was back in the team on Wednesday against Ipswich, but it’s not that harsh to say he didn’t pull up too many trees. The home-grown Jack, meanwhile, was champing at the bit from the bench, and you get the feeling that he means to make the most of any opportunities that come his way – as they surely will.

Not so long back, Jack Harrison was asked where he saw himself in five years time and, instead of acknowledging his parent club Man City, he replied “Playing in the Premier League with Leeds”. That’s quite heartwarming, and very laudable – but the up-and-coming Jack Clarke will certainly have an opinion about it.

It may not come down to a simple binary choice anyway – given the versatility demanded of and provided by modern players. It could be that some future Leeds United team will include two Jacks, both of them aces. But, on what we’ve seen so far, it’d be a brave pundit who would bet against Clarke saving Leeds however many millions it would take to make Harrison’s move to Elland Road permanent.

And – who knows? – it may not be too long before that once familiar commentary line is heard again with some regularity at Leeds matches – you know the one…

Clarke – one nil!

Leeds Icon in Hammer Blow While Wonderkid Waits in the Wings – by Rob Atkinson

Pontus

Pontus – wants answers from United

Understandably, attention is switching away from Leeds United‘s slow-motion car crash of a season, as it fizzles out into yet another mid-table mediocrity outcome. But, Leeds being Leeds, there will always be something to talk about – even when the football itself is hardly worthy of mention. The past few days has exemplified this, with two contrasting stories – one rather worrying, the other a beacon of hope for the not too distant future.

On the debit side of the Leeds chat ledger is the perturbing suggestion that defensive colossus Pontus Jansson may be less than contented with the way things are going at Elland Road. It appears that the big Swedish international would like some assurances from the owners and board about plans for next season, with the clear implication that Pontus doesn’t fancy another campaign of under-achievement. And the worry can only increase with rumours that Jansson could be heading for the Elland Road exit door, with West Ham, of all clubs, being a possible destination. The believability of that particular whisper isn’t assisted by the laughable purchase price quoted, somewhere around £5.4 million, which would hardly cover a season’s loan fee and wages. West Ham, it might also be said, would be a strange destination for anybody worried about his current club’s situation; Pontus would probably be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire if a move to the Hammers actually transpired.

A much more positive story is the impressive form of young Jack Clarke in the increasingly dominant Under-23 side, which has now won four on the spin. Clarke gave a breathtaking display in the most recent victory, a 3-0 dismissal of Cardiff City at Thorp Arch. Reports suggested that Clarke was beating his man at will, and – had more clear scoring chances been taken – could have ended up with half a dozen assists. It’s also reported that Jack is a wanted lad, by none other than runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, no less. But our boy wonder appears to be indifferent to such a move, preferring to stay and learn his trade at Elland Road, which is music to the ears of any United fan feeling starved of good, positive news. It looks as though Jack Clarke could be competing for some first team involvement sooner rather than later, and the feeling is that United have a seriously hot prospect on their hands.

Sadly, the actual football will soon be taking our attention away from these more interesting matters once again, which is a bit of a pain. Leeds do seem set for a bumper crowd against Bolton at the weekend, though, with an attendance of well over 30,000 likely. This is quite extraordinary for a club whose prices aren’t the cheapest, who have been serving up uninspiring dross in their performances since early in the season, and who have been languishing outside the top flight for far too many years now. All of which goes to show that Leeds United are still Number One in terms of their fanatical support, for which much credit is owed to those long-suffering and dedicated Elland Road devotees.

In summary: if Pontus leaves for the Hammers, I shall eat my Leeds United bobble hat; I will also predict here and now a debut and goal for Jack Clarke before the end of this season – and we can still be extremely proud of our club, off the playing field at least.

Marching On Together.