There were plenty of Newcastle United players who shone against West Ham United on Saturday, but perhaps the man whose recent run of form has been most surprising is centre back Ciaran Clark.
The Republic of Ireland international opened the scoring for the Magpies in their 3-2 victory over the Hammers, powering home a header in fantastic fashion.
However, it could have been so different. He told the Shields Gazette last month that he almost left the club in the summer, but was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to depart by head coach Steve Bruce.
While the Toon boss rarely receives praise from the Newcastle supporters, he certainly deserves credit for keeping Clark around. Indeed, after his masterclass at the London Stadium, he is surely now undroppable for Bruce.
The 30-year-old has been tremendous since coming into the team against Manchester United at the start of October, producing a number of key performances and helping shore up the Magpies’ backline in the wake of the Leicester City disaster in the previous game.
The statistics tell us how vital the Irishman has been to Newcastle’s recent mini-revival. As per WhoScored.com, he is averaging 1.8 tackles, one interception, 5.3 clearances and one block per game this season.
He’s also scored a goal and is playing two long balls up to his attackers per outing on average. Plus, he’s got an average WhoScored rating of 7.08 this campaign.
Clark has had to wait for his chance this term, but he has very much taken it now. Star defenders Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune are on their way back from injury, but there’s no way either of them should be taking Clark’s spot in the line-up.