Ciaran Clark is yet another excellent Rafa Benitez signing.
A release clause in the defender’s contract allowed Newcastle to pick the player up for only £5m as both Aston Villa and NUFC were relegated in 2016.
Clark was arguably Newcastle’s best player in the promotion season but it has been diminishing returns for the centre-back since then.
Having made 34 league appearances in the Championship year, it dropped down to 20 on the return to the Premier League in 2017/18 and then only 11 in 2018/19.
This season, Ciaran Clark hadn’t had a minute on the pitch in the Premier League, only 90 minutes in the League Cup defeat to Leicester when Steve Bruce played an almost entire second choice team.
To his credit, even when Clark goes a considerable time without playing, he rarely, if ever, lets Newcastle down.
This was again the case on Sunday, making his first Premier League appearance in nine months in place of Paul Dummett.
Ciaran Clark came in and instantly looked impressive playing as the left hand side centre-back.
The defender admitting after the victory over Man Utd that it makes it tough when centre-back is the only area where Newcastle have real strength in depth.
Ciaran Clark talking to the Northern Echo:
“It has been hard because we have a lot of centre-halves fit now and we have not had that situation over the last couple of years.
“It is all about staying in there.
“We have a big squad and all near enough fit, sometimes it’s not just about how well you are training it’s about how well you do on the pitch in games.
“Hopefully I have given the manager a tough decision and I will just focus on myself.
“Over the last couple of seasons I have found myself in and out of the team.
“I have wanted to just play more regularly if possible and I had a chat with the manager towards the end of the window.
“He said he wanted to keep as many people here as possible to assess what he had.
“It’s about waiting for my chance and I have tried to stay positive until I got that chance. Luckily enough I got the chance and we got the clean sheet (against Man Utd) and the win.
“It was a time when we needed to get the result before the break and we knew we had to do it. It’s Man United as well, they have quality. To put that performance in, a clean sheet and the win too, should boost everyone.
“We were more attacking. Saint-Maximim showed that early on with his dribbling and desire to get at players, win corners, we created chances. That’s what the fans want to see, putting the opposition under pressure. We worked hard and got the result.
“The majority of the season the lads have done well, they have just been unlucky in a lot of the games. Results haven’t gone quite our way.
“I think Leicester wasn’t great at all, everyone involved knew that.
“Whoever played on Sunday had to try to get a positive vibe around the place, the fans were brilliant and we deserved that win.
“We have to stay positive now.
“It was a tough game but one where we weren’t too flustered, not many chances for them. We have to take the positives from training and work hard.
“If we keep doing what we have been doing, with the exception of a few results, we will keep that positivity that has come back and use it to our advantage.
“The attitude in training before it (beating Man Utd) was bang on and the manager made some big decisions in terms of what side to put out. Everyone wanted to do their best and it was a fantastic response after the Leicester defeat.
“It was a positive to get the win before the break. Every game in this league is tough, we know we have Chelsea next after Man United. We can enjoy that last win and keep training to prepare for that. We have to stay positive and build on it.
“There is pressure to win because we know other teams can win games and are doing so.”