Ex-Sunderland defender Ben Clark thanks Gateshead fans in emotional tribute after Heed sacking
An emotional Ben Clark has paid tribute to the Gateshead supporters less than 24 hours after he was sacked by the club’s owner Dr Ranjan Varghese.
Clark’s nine-year stay at the club was brought to an end on Tuesday evening when he received an email from the Heed owner confirming that his services were no longer needed.
The former Hartlepool United and Sunderland centre-back has become a much-loved figure at the International Stadium and still remains the only player to have led the club out at Wembley.
His stock rose ever further when he took over as Heed manager in January following the departure of Steve Watson to York City.
But now, for the first time in almost a decade, Clark will no longer be an employee of the club.
Speaking frankly after his departure was confirmed he told the Sunderland Echo “There is a great bond between the supporters and myself and can’t really put into words the relationship we have had.
“Basically, I just have to thank the supporters because they are a great group of fans.
“Nothing will ever make up for the support that they have given me during my time as a player or as a manager.
“It is sad to leave them more than anyone and, in this whole situation, there are no winners and losers in this situation, the club is just going down different route.
“I want to look back on all of the good things and first and foremost it’s the friendships that I have forged at the club that will stay with me.
“I have had great relationships with players, and I’ll be supporting people like James Curtis, Jamie Chandler, Jon Shaw and Phil Turnbull over the coming days.
“There is a bond with former players and supporters there and it isn’t one that can be broken, it will stay with me and it is something that I cherish.”
Clark admitted that he has been left “disappointed” by the nature of his departure as he followed the likes of press officer Dominic Scurr, assistant manager Ian Watson and kit manager JJ O’Donnell in being sacked via an email from Varghese.
But the Heed legend refused to “hammer” the Hong Kong-based businessman and admitted that he will always be grateful that he got the chance to manage a club close to his heart.
“It’s difficult to put into words how I am feeling after everything that has gone on,” explained Clark.
“It’s not easy and I just have to thank to the staff that I have worked with, the players and the coaches.
“I was expecting it to happen, but the decent thing to do would be to do it in person or on the phone.
“Sadly, that didn’t happen.
“But I won’t sit here and hammer them, because I thankful for opportunity to manage a club I love.
“I’m just disappointed with how things have been done and I feel like it could have been managed in a better way.”
Clark reflected on his time at the club and admitted that the overriding emotion was one of pride.
The 36-year-old has left a legacy of great memories at the International Stadium, including coming within 90 minutes of delivering on the dream of reaching the Football League and, from a personal point of view, managing the club.
He said “Wembley gave me great pride and it meant everything being the man to lead the club I love out there.
“But, in all honesty, it was probably the best and worst day of my life.
“I came to the club and I wanted promotion, so to come that far and lose was disappointing but to lead out the lads, in front of all of our supporters was amazing.
“But it was the Grimsby Town semi-final that stays with me more than Wembley.
“To see the stadium with 9,000 in there was incredible.
“Then I got to go on to manage the club as well was amazing.
“That day at Salford and managing the club for the first time was very, very special.
“My Dad was there, and he got emotional and so did the rest of my family.
“Whatever happens I can always be proud of what I achieved at the club.”