The talented Liverpool player who has Newcastle United 'in his heart'
Newcastle United’s new owners want to see more players come through the club’s academy – but they arrived too late to stop one prospect leaving.
When Steve Bruce took charge at St James’s Park, he highlighted the progress of Joe White and Bobby Clark.
Bruce had been told that Clark, son of former Newcastle midfielder Lee, was a “very, very good player” by staff at the Academy.
“I wouldn’t want to bring out individuals, but we’ve got a young lad from Carlisle (White) who people think a lot of, and Clarkie’s boy is supposed to be a very, very good player,” said Bruce.
“I think it’s vitally important for a club like this – getting one of their own is always a bit special. We’ve got one or two others, but they’ve still got to take the next step.”
Unfortunately for Newcastle, Clark went on to make the biggest step, the one from youth-team football to the first team, at Liverpool.
“Thank you to all the staff and my teammates at @nufc for an incredible 7 years and everything you’ve done to guide me to where I am today,” said Clark on Instagram. "You’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Bruce, for his part, was frustrated that the club, then owned by Mike Ashley, had lost one of its most talented young players, albeit for a fee which reportedly could rise to £1.5million.
“We’re disappointed that we lost him, because nobody wants to lose a good player,” said Bruce at the time. “Yeah, disappointed, of course we are. I think it (the system) is flawed. He’s been here since he was a boy. I think, in the end, it was best for all parties to part company.”
Clark took the tough decision to leave his boyhood club after visiting Liverpool’s facilities and meeting key personnel – and he hasn’t looked back.
Remarkably, the England youth international’s already getting first-team experience with his new club at the age of 17.
Clark can play anywhere across the forward line – and also in midfield. At United, he was used as a No.10, but at Liverpool he’s been used as a No.8 or No.11 in their 4-3-3 system.
Certainly, Clark – who hadn’t yet made the step up to Newcastle's Under-18s in his final season on Tyneside – has made rapid progress since crossing the Pennines. Clark scored on his debut for Liverpool’s Under-18s – and ended last season with 13 goals in all competitions.
A call-up to the first-team squad for Liverpool’s pre-season tour of Asia this summer followed.
Clark, born in Epsom while his father was playing for Fulham, made his Premier League debut off the bench in August. Shortly before the domestic calendar paused for the World Cup, he made his full debut in a Carabao Cup tie against Derby County.
The move has worked brilliantly for the talented and dedicated Clark, who quickly won the admiration of Klopp. It seems certain that we’ll one day see him playing at St James’s Park – for Liverpool.
United’s ambitious new owners, addressing the under-investment of the Ashley era, must now invest in the academy to ensure that it has everything it needs to attract the region’s best players – and keep them.