Former Huddersfield boss hails the 'magnificent' work of manager Alan Pardew and his coaching staff and says he is keen to return to management following his sacking
By Rob Stewart
Former Newcastle United midfielder Lee Clark believes that “anything can happen” as his old club bid to step up their unlikely challenge for Champions League football at Swansea City on Friday.
One of the surprise packages of the Premier League could close the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham to two points if they win at the Liberty Stadium and Clark is bullish about Newcastle’s prospects of securing a place in Europe's elite club competition.
“Can they qualify for the Champions League? Anything can happen for Newcastle between now and the end of the season,” Clark told Goal.com.
“They are playing really well and they were exceptional, especially in the first half down at West Brom. They have some tough games left but then again no one will enjoy playing against Newcastle and none will fancy coming to St James’ Park.
“You want the club to be as successful as it possibly can be and if you had said at the start of the season that they would be competing for those sorts of places people would have thought you were crazy but they are in a great position now.”
Clark, who had two spells at his hometown club, has been a regular at the Sports Direct Arena and has visited the Newcastle training since he was sacked as Huddersfield manager in February.
The former midfielder has been impressed by the way Alan Pardew has steered his team into the upper echelons of the table in just their second season back in the top flight following a year in the Championship.
“The manager and his staff and the group of players deserve tremendous credit for the way they have gone about their business this season,” said the 39-year-old, who scored 28 goals in 265 Newcastle games.
“Alan Pardew and [first-team coach] John Carver and the rest of the staff have done so well because they are so thorough in what they do both in terms of analysing the opposition and their own team.
“John would have spoken to Alan Shearer about what the supporters want from their team and how they should go about their business, certainly at St James’ Park.
“Alan Pardew is obviously an experienced manager and combined with his staff bring it has all meant they have had a magnificent season no matter what happens for the rest of the campaign.
“But one thing that does happen up in Newcastle is that the expectation levels of the supporters then rise and you have got to try to match that but I am sure that Alan will be comfortable with that challenge.”
Now Clark, who had a spell on the Newcastle coaching staff during Graeme Souness and Glenn Roeder’s reigns as manager, before working again under the latter at Norwich City, is looking to make a swift return to management.
“I have to look to my future and make sure that the next club that I take on as a manager can give me the enjoyment that I have had in my previous five clubs I have worked for throughout my career in football – Newcastle, Sunderland, Fulham, Norwich and Huddersfield,” Clark continued.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Huddersfield and loved what I was doing. I loved the job and what it entailed and I want to get back into management 100 per cent.
“We will have to see what happens in the future and see who is prepared to speak to me and we will go from there. I certainly learned a lot from my time at Huddersfield. You learn every day which is what I did when I was at Huddersfield and it is also what I have done since I left.
“The day you think you know it all and you are too good to learn is the day you are not doing your job properly because the people that want to keep learning are the ones that end up being at the very highest level and continue to stay there.
“What happened has happened - it is water under the bridge. It is part of my past but it is a fantastic part of my past. It is something that I will look back on in years to come with a lot of pride.
"Like a lot of clubs I have been involved with as a player and in a coaching capacity, I have a lot of fond memories of the place.”Follow Rob Stewart on