Ciaran Clark keen to take the '˜L' plates off and kick on with Newcastle in the Premier League

Ciaran Clark has described his first season in black and white as a steep learning curve.

Wednesday, 24th May 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 7:54 pm
Ciaran Clark

Now the Republic of Ireland international wants to use Newcastle United’s return to the Premier League as the perfect platform to kick on as a player.

“I feel like I am learning all the time,” he said.

“To move to such a big club and being able to work with the players and staff that we have here has been great.

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“There are exciting times ahead.

“Everyone is obviously looking forward to the next season, playing against some of the best players and best stadiums in the world.”

Clark’s personal assesment of his performance seems a touch harsh given that he was one of the major success stories from the Magpies’ Championship-winning campaign.

His assured displays, comfort on the ball and passing range saw him become a favourite with the United crowd, when many had initially questioned manager Rafa Benitez’s decision to sign the £5million man from Aston Villa last summer.

His performances, while lauded on Tyneside, were not recognised on a national level, though.

With Jamaal Lascelles preferred in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Championship Team of the Year, and no United defender in the English Football League equivalent.

Despite that the defender says he has enjoyed his first year under Benitez at St James’s Park.

“For me personally I have really enjoyed this season,” he said.

“It’s easy to say that after we are up but it has been fantastic for me.

“Promotion was our aim from the start of the season.

“We all worked so hard, throughout the whole of the season to achieve it - the staff, the players.”

Having put all of that hard work in, Clark is keen for United to hit the ground running next season.

Not only will it be a return for the Magpies after a year absence from the top flight, it will also mark a return for former Villain Clark.

“We will be ready,” said the central defender.

“We will prepare well and be ready for the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have been linked with a summer move for long-term target Nicolas Pepe.

French news outlet L’Equipe claim United will move to tie up the 21-year-old Ivorian forward after his breakthrough season at Ligue 1 Angers.

Unconfirmed reports in January claim Benitez made an £8million bid for Pepe.