Lee Clark exclusive: Newcastle United legend reveals all about surprise move to Sudan Premier League club Al-Merreikh
Newcastle United legend Lee Clark has opened up about his surprise move to Sudan Premier League club Al-Merreikh.
Clark, 48, was confirmed as the new head coach of the Red Devils on Saturday evening, just a few hours after they sacked Nasreddine Nabi.
The former midfielder returns to management 12 months after leaving National League North side Blyth Spartans.
Clark had taken up a director of football role at ambitious non-league side Newcastle Blue Star, however returns to full-time coaching in North Africa.
And speaking exclusively to the Gazette, Clark says it was the pull of an “exciting” and “different” experience that tempted him to accept the role – highlighting the CAF Champions League.
"I’ve always fancied working abroad,” the former Birmingham City manager revealed.
"You don’t always know where you’re going to go or what you want to do but I’m really excited about the experiences I’m going to pick up.
"We’re travelling to Tanzania to play Simba in the Champions League next week on Tuesday and then we play Al-Ahly at home, who are a massive club on the African continent.
"We also travel to Vita in the Congo Premier League and we’ve potentially got a training camp in Egypt, so straight away within a month, I’m experiencing different situations.
"I had my first day with the players Monday, so I’m really excited by it all and it’s a new challenge.”
Clark admitted the approach from Al-Merreikh officials took him by surprise, though he was more than “receptive” to discussions.
After delving deeper into the club’s history, the former Fulham captain flew out to Sudan before putting pen to paper on a 12-month rolling contract at the weekend.
Clark had just one day to work with his players and staff ahead of his first game against Al-Hilal Al-Fasher this afternoon.
Clark revealed: "I’ve done some research into the club and they’re one of the biggest clubs in Africa. They’re always competing to win the league and progress in the CAF Champions League.
"I’m always receptive. My family understands that I love football.
"I want to be on the grass coaching and this an opportunity for me to do that and compete at a high level in terms of the games that are coming up and the experiences I’m going to be gaining.
"When the Covid-19 restrictions aren’t around, it’s a 43,000 full house at the Red Castle – as they call it – for Champions League games and 25,000 for the Sudan league games.
"The football over here is huge and the club is very well supported.”
Al-Merreikh sit second in the Sudan Premier League, three points behind leaders Al-Hilal with a game in-hand.
But with plenty of league games still be arranged, Clark’s is targeting progression into the Champions League knockout stage, though concedes it is a difficult task.
He said: "We’ve got a big task with just one point from our opening three games.
"If we can get two wins, it will give us a chance. That’s the big thing for the club, they want to try and get through the group stages.
"We’ll give it a right good go for the last three games.”