Former Newcastle and Sunderland star Lee Clark reveals why he chose Kilmarnock for return

Lee Clark
Lee Clark
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Lee Clark admits he is eyeing a more stable working environment with Kilmarnock than during his chaotic reign at Blackpool.

The former Newcastle, Sunderland and Fulham midfielder has been appointed Gary Locke’s Rugby Park successor after penning a three-and-a-half-year deal.

The 43-year-old is now looking forward to his first adventure north of the border after re-charging his batteries following his departure from Bloomfield Road.

Clark – who also had a successful spell with Huddersfield – took charge of Blackpool in October 2014 two weeks after being sacked by Birmingham.

But he found the task of keeping the Seasiders in the Sky Bet Championship impossible as Karl Oyston’s stewardship saw the club stumble from one crisis to the next.

He managed just three wins from 33 games in charge and eventually resigned when their final game of last season was abandoned as furious fans led a pitch invasion in protest at the chairman’s running of the Lancashire outfit.

Killie currently sit 10th in the Ladbrokes Premiership and Clark’s first task as boss will be to steer the team away from relegation play-off trouble.

However, he insists he is already thinking with a long-term view in mind.

Clark said: “I just felt Kilmarnock was the right club for me. The infrastructure is in place. They have a great ethos of bringing young players through which is a big belief I share.

“The short-term aim is to secure the club’s position in the top flight but long-term we don’t want to have these relegation battles every year. Instead we want to develop these young players so we can get into the top six and compete for European places.

“I’m delighted to be back. It’s the longest I’ve been out of the game since I left school. It was a time for reflection, a time to look back at what happened in my managerial career.

“But a lot of the time I spent out was of my own decision. I did get offered jobs down south but didn’t feel they were right for me.

“After leaving Blackpool it was about joining the right club and I now feel that is Kilmarnock. It is the right opportunity.

“I was never worried about my career being damaged by that spell at Blackpool because when you look at it, the club was already on the decline when I joined. They had only won one game in 16, they were bottom of the table and well adrift. They hadn’t even had a pre-season because they had almost no players.

“When I look back, it was always going to be a task that was too much. It was six months of constant turmoil but it was the one blip on my record. But I’ve been on the opposite end when I was breaking records with Huddersfield.

“All these things put together mean I have more experience in the bank. Has it made me a better manager? Without a doubt.

“I’ve been given a long-term commitment from Kilmarnock now with the length of contract I’ve signed, so I’d like to think I have something to build on.”

Clark will watch from the Rugby Park stands on Tuesday night as Killie take on Rangers in their William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round replay, leaving Lee McCulloch and Peter Leven in charge after both men agreed to stay on as assistant manager and first-team coach.

But he knows it will be down to him to lure the club’s disgruntled supporters back.

Attendances at the Ayrshire outfit have plummeted in recent years following a fall-out with former chairman Michael Johnston - who was on hand to unveil Clark on Tuesday morning in his new role as club secretary, with current chairman Jim Mann away on business.

“I want to give the fans a product on the pitch that will make them come back,” insisted Clark.

“In today’s world things are tough for people financially. If they are going to spend their hard-earned money coming to football, it has to be worthwhile.”