Jack Clarke opens up on his move from Leeds to Tottenham, a new role at Sunderland and his future ambitions

While things didn’t work out the way he intended, Jack Clarke says he doesn’t have any regrets.

The Leeds-born winger was just 18 when Tottenham paid a reported £10million fee to sign him on a four-year contract.

Clarke had just enjoyed a breakthrough season in Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side as The Whites reached the Championship play-offs in 2019, yet he made just four Tottenham appearances in the years that followed.

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A loan spell back to Leeds was also challenging, while temporary switches to QPR and Stoke didn’t lead to more game time at Spurs.

Jack Clarke playing for Sunderland

But after three years of little first-team action, it’s easy to forget Clarke is still only 21, with Sunderland now reaping the rewards of the wideman’s potential.

Following a loan move to the Stadium of Light in the second half of last season, the player's move was made permanent this summer following promotion from League One.

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In the Championship, Clarke has already scored twice and provided three assists in seven league appearances this season, while producing a man of the match display in a 3-0 win over Rotherham.

So how does he reflect on his time at Tottenham and how it played out?

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Jack Clarke made just four senior appearances for Tottenham. (Photo by IAN KINGTON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Three years at Tottenham

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"It was a difficult one really,” Clarke tells the Echo. “Looking back on it it never really materialised in the way I wanted it to or into anything, but I wouldn’t say I’d do anything differently.

“I still took the opportunity, I tried my best when I was there and obviously it wasn't meant to be. I’m glad I made the switch when I did and I’m enjoying being here now.

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“I think with the players that are there at Tottenham and the management and everything else there, there’s always an opportunity to learn.

Jack Clarke after scoring for Sunderland against Rotherham.
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“I’d say the majority of learning is who you are on the training pitch and then in a game it’s just your time to show it.

“I feel like it still developed me as a player behind the scenes and now it’s a chance and an opportunity for me to show what I did learn and what sort of player I am.”

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A new role at Sunderland

While Clarke was predominantly a right winger during his time at Leeds, he’s had to adapt to a play in a new position as a left wing-back at Sunderland.

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At first the role took a bit of getting used to, as the 21-year-old was thrust into a League One promotion battle during the second half of the 2021/22 campaign.

This season Clarke has looked more and more comfortable, though, while his goal against Rotherham, where he cut in from the left before finishing with his stronger right foot, highlighted his confidence.

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“Obviously there is a lot more defensive responsibility and stuff like that but I find myself being able to get on the ball a bit more deeper on the pitch,” replies Clarke when asked about his new position.

“I enjoy playing there and it means I have to stay focused throughout the full game which I enjoy as well.

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“Look, if I have to play there to help the team and be a bit more defensive some games then I’m willing to do that as long as we get the results.

“Obviously playing at this level and having more defensive responsibility off the ball is only going to improve me as a player.

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“Then If we go back to playing a different system I can go and play on the wing. I can’t say I want to get any further back on the pitch but we’ll have to see.”

Clarke was moved into the wing-back role by former Sunderland head coach Alex Neil, yet the Scot’s sudden departure to Championship rivals Stoke threatened to throw the Black Cats off track.

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Sunderland responded well, though, producing a spirited display despite a 1-0 defeat by Norwich, before scoring three without reply against Rotherham under new boss Tony Mowbray.

Looking to the future

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“As a player you sort of just have to get onboard with what’s going on,” Clarke says when asked about the change of head coach.

“You can’t really dwell about whether the manager is going, whether he’s staying or whatever else. You just have to focus on the games and whatever else comes with it it’s not really our decision to make.

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“Whether he stays or whether he goes, or what the manager in charge does or who he chooses to play, as a player you just have to get onboard with whatever is going on and take it from there really.”

The direction Sunderland have taken is an intriguing one too, with the Black Cats investing in youth and giving them opportunities.

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“It’s exciting times,” says Clarke, who has signed a four-year deal on Wearside and is already looking like an astute signing, someone who can make an impact now but who also has his best years ahead of him.

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So what are Clarke’s aspirations for the future? While he doesn’t want to look too far ahead, the 21-year-old isn’t lacking ambition.

“Just to have a successful season here,” he replies. “Win as many games as possible and see where it takes us from there.

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“I don’t want to think too far into the future but we’ll take it game by game and hopefully in 20,30 games we’re in a good position where we can go for a play-off push or an automatic push.

“That’s the goal for everybody and we’ll just have to wait and see.”