He’s stepped out of his comfort zone – but former Newcastle United and Kilmarnock man Lee Clark loves life in Sudan.
The Newcastle United hero is known in Ayrshire for his one-year stint at Killie between February 2016 and 2017. His last management contract is with Sudanese club Al-Merrikh SC, who won the last two titles in the Sudanese elite and also participates in the African and Arab versions of the Champions League.
With a demanding fan base, the former Newcastle United and Kilmarnock figure has says NTOF how he took up his new challenge: “I was looking for an opportunity abroad. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do since I coached, it’s always been my plan.
“I had an opportunity in Europe a few years ago, but I couldn’t take it due to my father’s poor health. I didn’t want to be abroad at the time, but this one happened. I looked at the club, what it is. They are playing in the Champions League and when the Covid-19 restrictions are absent, it’s 43,000 full fans.
“The fans are very, very passionate and this is one of the top five clubs in Africa. I thought, why not? It’s a different experience and a different culture, I really appreciate it. Love it, I’m back on the coaching turf.
“I have a passion for football. Our national goal is to win the league and we have two tough matches left in the Champions League. We will try to win them over and see what happens. We also have the Arab Champions League to play, so there is a lot of potential excitement, so we are positive. “
While in Kilmarnock, Clark made a lot of transactions, especially in the loan market. Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff and Swansea City lender Toon Freddie Woodman have all been brought to the club.
Jordan Jones was also signed while academy graduate Greg Taylor received his senior debut from Clark, only to go on to make Killie seven figures last season as he moved to Celtic. These players are worth millions, Clark is proud of his recruiting.
He said: “I gave Greg Taylor a chance and the rest is history. He became a full international, he plays for Celtic and it turned out to be the right thing to do. It allowed me to see him in the first football team, he had the ability and the mentality.
“I brought Jordan Jones for free and he made his big leap with the Rangers. There have been successes, others not. There have been a lot of loans and some of them have since proven themselves to be top players.
“Some of them ruffled a few feathers, especially Freddie Woodman’s. We had Jamie MacDonald who had been in Scotland for a long time but whatever the situation. If you have a chance to improve your team, you should never turn it down.
“Woodman was an Under-20 World Cup winner, he’s doing so well for Swansea City now, and many Premier League clubs are chasing him. He improved the goaltending department, while Sean Longstaff and Kristoffer Ajer were instrumental.
“We did great business. You could undoubtedly surpass the £ 100million mark (for the players mentioned). We had a high success rate, you will not get 100% in the market that we are in. There were a lot of positives.
Kilmarnock is currently fighting for the survival of the Scottish Premiership under the leadership of Clark’s former colleague at Newcastle United and Norwich City, Tommy Wright, the former Rugby Park boss supporting the current one for success.
Clark explained, “I think Tommy inherited a much better team than the one I had. The 4-1 result against Motherwell will give them so much confidence. Having Tommy as a manager, who is a former colleague of mine, there is a strong allegiance to me there.
“They couldn’t have chosen a better manager. He’s taken St Johnstone out of a similar position a few times, but he’s also built teams that have become successful, consistently in the top six. He’ll get the results in the division, which means they won’t have to worry about relegation.
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