Ciaran Clark reveals his reaction to being handed captain's armband at Newcastle
Ciaran Clark said he was 'honoured' to captain Newcastle United at Turf Moor.
The defender scored the winning goal in Monday night’s 2-1 win over Burnley.
Clark had been recalled to the starting XI as part of a five-man defence by Rafa Benitez after a two-month spell out of the team.
And the 29-year-old’s first-half header saw Newcastle record a third successive victory.
The win moved the club up to 13th place in the Premier League ahead of Saturday’s home game against West Ham United.
“We’d worked on a few things during the international break in preparation for Burnley, including playing with three centre-backs,” said Clark. “But we weren’t exactly sure what the manager was going to go with until we got to the ground.
“When he announced the team, he not only said I was in the XI, he said I was captain too – which was great.
“Obviously, I was pleased to be given that honour, but really I was pleased just to be playing again and part of the team, if I’m honest.
“But the most important thing at the end was the result, and we’re buzzing with that win.”
United took an early lead through a deflected strike from Federico Fernandez. Clark doubled Newcastle’s advantage before Sam Vokes pulled a goal back for Burnley before the break.
“It was a great night,” said Clark. “We started off really well, got two early goals and I felt like we were fairly comfortable.
“We knew what Burnley were going to do. Their strengths are getting the ball forward early into the two strikers, and for the most part we dealt with it.
“They scored their goal, which made it kind of nervy for us, but we battled through.
“Then, in the second half, we refocused and concentrated and managed to hold on so it was a great night, a great result and a great three points.”
Newcastle failed to win any of their first 10 league games.
“I think the season is very much up and running now,” said Clark. “We had a really tough start, and we were unlucky in most of the games we actually played in.
“To go on this run of three wins in a row is unbelievable, but we always had the belief in the team we would turn this around.
“We’ve proved that, but we really want to keep this going now and really kick on and pick up more points in December.”
Benitez didn’t panic during the team’s winless run.
“The manager has always had the belief in us,” said Clark. “We go back to the training ground after every game, we work on what we’re going to do, and he’s always right behind us.
“It’s starting to turn around – we’re starting to get our luck in games, whereas maybe we didn’t earlier in the season – and he said it would.
“It’s nice to be getting points now, and it shows how tight the league is. Three wins, and suddenly we’re 13th and out of the relegation zone.
“We’re definitely looking forward now, we’re concentrating on West Ham and hoping we can pick up even more points.”
Benitez fielded three centre-halves at Turf Moor.
“The system worked well, and now it’s about getting focused and prepared for West Ham on Saturday, which will be a very different game,” said Clark.
“We’re obviously desperate now to keep this going, and the three wins have been brilliant, but we want to keep this going and pick up even more points.
“We’re full of confidence now – the performances are showing that. We have to keep this momentum going.”