Throughout the last year my greatest hope for a WST-run club was that it would look to do the right thing, something I wouldn’t have previously assumed would happen at The Racecourse. We’ve seen a nice example of them doing exactly that today, when the club saw Joe Clarke right and gave him a contract.
I accept that in our current diminished state we’re hardly in a position to be splashing out on salaries (I mean, look where that’s got us over the last five years!) and the recession means that players with no club are more liable to play for expenses these days. However, like Mathias Pogba last season, Clarke has made a genuine contribution to the cause despite not receiving a wage, and it’s only right that he should be offered some remuneration and job security as a reward.
Clarke is most valuable to us when he recognises his limits. He isn’t Xavi and he’s never going to be, so his effectiveness diminishes when he tries to play penetrating passes. Possession is given away too easily when he tries to make play, but he’s extremely effective when he keeps it simple.
In fact, for me his value is most definitely in what used to be the Chris Blackburn role, breaking play up (something he’s perfectly adept at), and feeding the likes of Lee Fowler, Jay Harris and Dean Keates, who are better equipped to take the game to the opposition. In doing that he brings valuable balance to the middle of the pitch, and in fact he is capable of surging forwards himself and forcing the other side back, an attribute Blackburn did not possess.
As he wins his fair share in the air, and overall I’d say uses his physical attributes better than Blackburn, whose claim that he’s a centre back is contradicted by his lack of relish for physical confrontation, he clearly has a valuable role in the squad. We’ll have made a tidy saving in replacing Blackburn with Clarke too, as the Stockport man would have demanded a decent wage to drop out of the Football League to join us.
Only Ebenezer Scrooge would argue we were saving even more when we weren’t paying him at all; at Christmas, it’s particularly apropriate that the club reward Clarke for being good all year!