Ciaran Clark: You’ve got your new deal, now prove you’re worth it

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The objectives of Paul Lambert in the close season were very obvious for all to see – and executed swiftly and professionally. As well as signing new young talent such as Nicklas Helenius and Jores Okore, Lambert was also keen to get those who performed consistently well last season tied down to improved deals as a reward.

With key players such as Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood, Matthew Lowton, Brad Guzan and Andi Weimann adding to hot prospects Samir Carruthers, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker in confirming their commitment to Villa, it has been a pretty successful few months without even kicking a ball.

Ciaran Clark is the only one in there who’s led to questions being raised about whether he deserves a new deal though, and I think them harsh.

The 23-year-old defender’s previous contract had just 12 months remaining and running the risk of losing him on a free transfer would quite honestly have been pretty stupid. The Irishman broke onto the first team scene in 2009 and has failed to cement a place as a key player since doing so, but having had four different permanent managers in this time will certainly not have helped his cause.

An academy graduate, Clark captained the reserves side to the title before making his first-team debut and has gone on to make some just as crucial contributions to the senior squad: instances such as a late headed goal in the 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge in 2011 and the goal against Newcastle in the 1-1 draw early last season to earn Villa’s first point of the campaign. He has also scored some impressive goals such as the 20-yard volley in a brace against Arsenal in 2010.

Being able to play adequately as a left back, centre back or a defensive midfielder, Clark is certainly versatile enough to make a positive impact even in this new squad. Having captained Villa’s senior side in the 4-1 away Carling Cup quarter final victory over Norwich City, it’s fairly obvious that Lambert rates his leadership abilities as well as his contribution to the team.

He is renowned as being a ball-playing-defender and while this has its positives such as being able to pick a pass that your James Collins’ of the world can’t, he can also get caught dwelling on the ball while trying to be too creative and gifting possession to the opposition in dangerous areas. He has also been regarded as a little lightweight at times and, while I like Clark, it’s hard to disagree. He needs to work on these tendencies but also needs to be given time to do so through first team experience.

Seeing so many academy graduates such as Clark, Albrighton, Weimann, Baker and Gardner in and around the senior squad is an essential bargaining tool in convincing the current crop of NextGen champions that not only can they make an impact on this team but that they will improve as players while doing so. We are a club that values developing our own players, and Clark is certainly one of them.

Still, he is not a promising youngster any more and Clark should be looking to make a bigger impact on the upcoming season than he did in Lambert’s maiden campaign as manager.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Clark definitely deserves a new deal, and hopefully under lambert he can find some consistency and become a 90 minute player. I think CC has suffered for two reasons, one as you have mentioned having to play under too many managers at the time he was breaking through. But for me, he lost his way a little because no one knew what his best position was. Finally Lambert sees him as a CB, hopefully that will help him. The biggest hurdle Clark faces is competition, we have Okore and Vlaar, plus Baker looks extremely promising.

  2. Whilst Clark deserves a new contract and has lots of potential to be a commanding presence in what is hopefully now taking shape to be a great Villa team (remember the famous quote about Ferguson’s fledglings – “you’ll never win anything with kids”), I really feel that he needs to eradicate his negativity when in possession of the ball. If one looks in depth at his play, it will be noted that when receiving the ball, his first instinct is always and invariably, to turn around and pass it back to the keeper. I feel that at present, he is Villa’s most negative player. Ciaran can be very skilful on the ball, so he needs to hone his instincts and start moving the ball forward into dangerous areas rather than always sticking with his preferable method of putting the pressure on his keeper to distribute the ball on his behalf. If he can do that, then he can really mould himself into the art of being a classy sweeper, cleaning up at the back and swiftly turning defence into attack. If he can learn and achieve this, he will cement his place into first choice eleven.

  3. I’d like to see him go out on loan and have a season as a first team regular in a Championship team battling for promotion. Then welcome him back to Villa the season after for one more crack at our first team.

  4. I think he would make a good partnership with Vlaar, as he would definitely make up for Clark’s light weight-ness. but I think my preferred partnership would be Baker and Okore. Baker seems to be very focused and devoted to the Villa, robust and young. while Okore has the pace to keep up with the strikers.
    it will be interesting to see you what Paul and all of you have to think about it

  5. Good article.
    For me the position Clark has been most successful in would be as a holding midfielder, he made a few clangers last season playing at centre half and they got highlighted but was also fortunate with a few others too.
    If Sylla who I see as important player for us gets injured this season it’l be interesting to see who fills the void. He added the ‘wee bit of steel’ we needed in the final third of the season. So on that basis you look at the options and you would have Clark and Johnson competing for back up in that position.

  6. Went to Wycombe and our defending first half was poor! Too many hoofs up the pitch! Clarke needs to learn how to attack a ball in the air! Too many times he is flat footed when he should meet the ball at its highest point! The first goal was flukey but second was poor defending! Vlaar lost the header near post and the flick went to clark’s man! Not even a challenge! Baker knows how to win headers and never lost one when he came on! He has a determination about him vlaar and Clarke don’t possess! My choice would be okore and baker! Donacien is a prospect and was fast strong and good going forward! One for the future! Utv

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