Recently sacked Huddersfield boss believes his former Newcastle manager has what it takes to succeed at Anfield and is also relishing return of Andy Carroll to TynesideEXCLUSIVE
By Rob Stewart
Former Newcastle United midfielder Lee Clark has emerged as an unlikely ally of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish ahead of the clubs’ Premier League match at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
Tyneside-born Clark was released by Dalglish when he was the Newcastle manager in 1997 but he has defended his former boss, who has come under fire following a dip in form that has seen Liverpool trail today’s opponents by eight points.
“This is a manager that can handle the flak that has been coming his way of late and this is also a manager who can get Liverpool competing for Premier League titles again,” Clark told Goal.com.
“If anyone can do it, it is Kenny Dalglish - not only because of the stature that he has at Liverpool and within the game in a broader sense, but also because he is an extremely good manager.
“They have won one trophy already this season in the Carling Cup and they could yet win the FA Cup as well and that would give them their most successful season in domestic terms in about 10 years [since] when Gerard Houllier was in charge.”
Dalglish returned to the Liverpool manager’s office in January last year and former Huddersfield manager Clark called for patience from supporters.
“They want to be challenging the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City to be Premier League winners and I think that given time that will happen. Kenny is a shrewd manager and he has been in the game a long time,” the 39-year-old added.
“He won the league championship in his first spell at Liverpool and he won the Premier League title when he was at Blackburn and I am certain that he can do it again.
“The expectation levels in management are getting shorter and shorter and as a manager it is not just the first team you are looking after, you are trying to look after the whole club.
“It is no coincidence that the most successful teams in the Premier League have stability in the management areas. I understand that comes with success but they go hand-in-hand. You have to be able to build clubs like David Moyes has done at Everton.”
Clark, who joined Sunderland after being told he could leave Newcastle by Dalglish, is relishing today’s meeting of sixth and eighth in the Premier League.
“My memories of playing Liverpool at St James’ Park are not too bad but I don’t have many good memories of playing them at Anfield, even though those 4-3 games were classed as classics. But when you lose you don’t really care. They are always big fixtures for both clubs,” he continued.
“There is a lot to play for for both clubs. Newcastle have had a fantastic season and Liverpool have won the Carling Cup and they are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and I would say they would probably like to have been doing better in the league.”
Andy Carroll will return to his old stamping ground for the first time since his £35 million move to Liverpool last year and Clark believes he could play a key role in Dalglish’s game plan.
“There are a lot of sub-plots, with Kenny Dalglish and Andy Carroll going back to their old club as well as Craig Bellamy and Jose Enrique," he said.
“What I have noticed about Newcastle is that when they have taken on the big teams they have really gone at them. They have tried to be positive and win, which is what they should do with the attacking players that they have such as Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa. They also have got people like Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in midfield, who will give any other central midfield pairing a run for their money.
“They will go for it against Liverpool. The crowd at Newcastle will demand that they really go for Liverpool, without leaving the back door open. But Liverpool will be coming here to get all three points themselves and exploit Newcastle’s problems in central defence because both of their first-choice centre-halves are unavailable with Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor both out injured.
“With Mike Williamson and James Perch in there at centre-half, I would have thought Liverpool would look to make the most of the injuries and see if they can put Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez together in there.”
Clark believes Newcastle strikers Cisse and Ba could cause Liverpool all sorts of problems.
“You have to be impressed with Ba and Cisse and they way Alan Pardew has got them playing together. Remember that Ba only came in at the start of the season and Cisse arrived just a few months ago,” Clark said.
“There were a few doubts about Ba because of the scans on his knee that put off one of two Premier League clubs, but his quality has never been in question and he has come to Newcastle and has proved to be one of the buys of the season.
“Cisse has kicked on since January and they complement each other really well. They are a good pairing and combined with the other lads around them they are quite a force.”