Photo credited to: BBC Sport
After meeting new BFCN ambassador, Lee Clark, on a couple of occasions in the last few weeks it quickly became apparent how passionate he is about football, he could talk football for hours. He also told me he spends hours taking in matches, and it goes to prove how keen he is to get back into management when the right opportunity comes along. Carry on reading to see what Lee had to say in his interview with BFCN.
Name, age and where are you based?
Lee Clark, 45, based in Newcastle Upon Tyne and currently looking for opportunities either in the UK or abroad.
One of my biggest regrets in my playing career is not taking one or two opportunities to play abroad, Osasuna in Spain and Marseille in France to mention a couple. I would like to change that now that I have a chance to do so in my managerial career.
How did you get into management?
I started off as a reserve team manager/first team coach at Newcastle United and then took an opportunity to become assistant manger to Glenn Roeder at Norwich City, and then the managers position at Huddersfield town.
Photo credited to: Easter Daily Press
How did your first managerial position go?
I took Huddersfield from mid-table in League 1 with not much value in terms of players on the pitch, to semi-final of play offs and then the following year the final of play offs.
In the year I lost my job there, in February 2012, we were in third in the league and in a great position to get promoted, which the squad eventually did.
Talk us through one of your proudest moments as a manager..
It was a highlight having the football league record of 43 unbeaten matches, beating the great late Brian Clough’s record of 42. To have that record is a terrific accolade.
Photo credited to: Independent
Any difficult times?
I’ve also had some tough managerial situations include losing my job at Huddersfield. It was a job I loved, working for great people, but it all ended abruptly.
Probably the toughest would be my time at Birmingham. I took over a tremendous club where I was excited about the facilities, the training ground, stadium, the infrastructure and support was phenomenal. There was an ambition, a good group of players. But within a matter of weeks of taking the job, things changed. The owner had gone into house arrest with assets frozen. We couldn’t really invest into the group anymore and went from a team that should have been competing at the top of the table to a team that had to fight to stay in the league. We had made a couple of signings but we couldn’t go for the type of players we were looking for. Then with each window that passed we had to reduce the overhead and the wage bill. That led to us losing some of our best young players, terrific talents, for figures that shouldn’t have been possible. We should’ve been getting a lot more money, but we ended up in a really desperate situation. It was tough.
The fans still wanted to see the winning mentality on the pitch. We ended up finishing where we really were in terms of finances, we were in the bottom 3 or 4 of the league and we couldn’t give the fans what they both expected and deserved.
We had that famous day at Bolton when we scored in the 95th minute, which kept us in the Championship on goal difference. The following season proved to be a bit similar, fighting at the wrong end of the table. It was a tough period, but I’m always thankful for having the opportunity of working at a club of that size and stature.
Where did you go next?
After Birmingham I moved on to Blackpool, which in hindsight was the wrong decision for me, personally. Fighting a losing battle both on and off the pitch. We had a demotivated group of players who weren’t used to that level of football, being in the Championship. Supporters were at loggerheads with the owners and there were constant demonstrations before, during and after games. So, as you can imagine, the atmosphere wasn’t the greatest.
Photo credited to: Football League World
And then you moved to Scotland, how did you enjoy that?
I moved on into Scotland and had a terrific time at Kilmarnock and changed their fortunes. They were bottom of the table when I took over, we survived via the SPFL playoffs.
The day I left the following season we had just got them in the top 6, which was no mean feat. So obviously there it was terrific time for me.
An opportunity to come back down to England came about at Bury, with the same initial expectation, to keep a club up who were at the bottom of a league, this time English League 1, and then to kick on from there to push for promotion the following season.
We did the first bit and stayed up and then recruited a squad we felt had the experience and qualities to mount a challenge the next season. We didn’t particularly start the next season strongly, there were one or two decent cup performances in there, but in general we weren’t where we wanted to be. But I felt it was an early decision to part with my services.
Since then I have took a step back to wait for the right opportunity to get back into management. I’ve been out to watch numerous games at various levels to keep up to date with what’s going on in the football world.
When did you first start doing your coaching qualifications?
I always intended to become a coach/manager. I actually took my first coaching badge at the age of 18 whilst I was playing for Newcastle United. I helped take a young team in the area, Wallsend Boys Club, and did a lot of coaching there so started my coaching badges then. It was always my intention from an early age to get into the managing side of football after my playing career had finished.
Who has been your biggest influence?
I’m very lucky to have played for some fantastic managers and some tremendous players that came into management and they have all had some sort of influence on me.
Jim Smith is the man who gave me my debut, Ossie Ardiles, the world cup winner, obviously the inspirational Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalgleish, a serial winner with Liverpool and Blackburn. There was also Graham Souness who obviously won multiple trophies as a manager, both home and abroad. Paul Bracewell, Jean Tigana, the Frenchman was a massive influence in terms of the fitness side of the game. From my time at Fulham, Chris Coleman was the youngest ever Premier League manager at the time when he took over. There was Peter Reid who was very good at the motivational side of the game, he knew how to get players going in the two years I played at Sunderland.
So, I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some tremendous coaches, managers, and man-managers through the years and how they go about the game.
Photo credited to: Daily Record
What are your main strengths as a manager?
I feel my understanding of the game tactically is one of my main strengths as a manager.
I also believe I’ve proved at all my clubs I can spot a player at any sort of level. I’ve signed good young players from non-league clubs and given them a chance to play and they have proved my judgement right. I have also given opportunities to players who were starting out at big clubs by signing them either on loan or permanently. I’ve always had a good reputation for an eye for spotting the best young players and giving them a chance.
I try my best to create an environment where players have respect for each other and a willingness to work hard and give everything that the fans want.
How are British coaches viewed in your opinion?
Personally, I believe the development for coaches in UK is being hindered a little bit. I think we get frowned upon in world football. Abroad they talk about British coaches and our game with a lot of negativity, but for some reason we’ve got the best product in world football in the Premier League. Yes, that has been helped by influx of top foreign players, not lots, but some real top ones. Also some top managers and coaches from abroad, your Guardiola’s and Klopp’s who’ve added a new dimension, a new philosophy and new beliefs to the Premier League.
I think there needs to be a lot more faith and confidence shown in British coaches throughout the world. There are some terrific coaches out there, whether they’ve played the game or whether they haven’t. They have all put a lot of hard work in, and I know this from personal experience, to gain those qualifications and to become a coach and manager.
I’ve had some tremendous support from some high profile managers, Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce, Arsene Wenger. As well as obviously the ones I played for, who never refused a question, or to pick up the phone when I was calling them to ask advice and whenever I was lucky enough to meet up with them at LMA functions, they were just brilliant.
They’ve achieved huge things in the game and they’ve always been there for me. Hopefully that can continue down the line and can drip-feed to the lower levels of the game and all their knowledge and experience can be shared because everyone needs support mechanisms and everyone will have failures in their coaching and managerial careers in terms of setbacks. It’s how you bounce back and take on the next challenge.
Photo credited to: The Telegraph
What has been good for your personal development?
Many things have been good for my personal development, obviously ups and the downs and how you react to them. Situations with individual players and with groups of players helped me to learn too.
You have to take everything into consideration when talking about development. Building teams from scratch, joining a club suffering a mid season dip and going in and saving them from relegation, challenging for promotion. All those things that happen, both good and bad, help with development. All of these things stand me in good stead for my next position because I have been able to learn from them.
So what is next for you?
As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I’ve missed out not playing abroad, so I want to see if there is a possibility to mange abroad. Of course if the right opportunity to work in the UK came along then I would take it.
I’m looking forward to an exciting new project. Until it presents itself, I will keep looking forward and continually be out watching games and picking managers and coaches brains to pick up new ideas.
*Lee can be contacted through BFCN about any positions which would be suitable for him*
Have a catch up with the new Leeds Utd Manager, get your reading glasses on!