New City No2 Lee Clark today explained his decision to leave his beloved Tyneside behind with one, simple word. “Ambition.”
The 35-year-old Newcastle United reserve boss was everything you expected him to be when he met the Press for the first time at Colney this morning – fiercely determined, hugely competitive and with a real hunger to get on, Clark is one of those characters in life that doesn't do prisoners.
He means business.
“I'm a very ambitious man,” said one of the Gallowgate's favourite sons, quizzed as to what persuaded him to follow Glenn Roeder to the foot of the Championship table.
“The position I held at Newcastle was a great position, but to come to a Championship club that really should be in the Premiership in terms of the facilities that it's got and be the assistant manager was something that I wanted to do because Glenn knows what my ambitions are – that I want to one day become a manager myself so this is the next step in line for me,” said Clark.
“So it's all about ambition. And to work for such a terrific club – which I've found out over the last few days since I've been here – helped me make the decision.”
It wasn't easy. And while Fulham might have proved that you can take the man out of Wallsend, whether you can ever hope to take Wallsend out of the man is another challenge altogether.
“The decision was never easy because I was working for a club that was very, very close to my heart, so it just shows you the pull of Norwich City.”
Earlier, new Canary boss Glenn Roeder had shed more light on his own, long-standing relationship with Clark – above all, how he was delighted to have someone of his ambition on his staff. Another, even younger one is set to follow Clark into the building in the next 48-hours as City's new first team coach.
“Lee's got a really good personality for the job that he's going to do,” said Roeder, who was rapidly guiding Clark up the Newcastle coaching ranks before his exit last May.
“He played for me a number of times when I was caretaker at Newcastle and in the end he was really struggling with a groin problem.
“I knew he wanted to be a coach and I said to him: 'Lee you can either go down a division and play if you want Championship football or you can stop playingnow and become a coach of the reserve team…'
“He went away and thought about it for a few hours and came back and said: 'I'm going to stop playing then. I want to be the reserve team coach…'
“And I've never known a player to forget about being a player so quickly. It can take six, nine, 12 months sometimes where they want to join in with the five-a-sides.
“But you're this side of the white line now. I don't like coaches that join in on a daily basis – you're there to coach. Lee straight away came over to this side of the fence and worked with the manager. And you could see he was a sponge for knowledge.”
Clark was likewise swift to acknowledge Roeder's role in his development – both as a player and as a coach. With 20-odd years in-between.
“I've known Glenn a long, long time,” said Clark, who already has a UEFA 'A' licence to his name; the 'Pro' licence – the top qualification in the game – is due to follow later this year.
“When I was a 14-year-old school-boy at Newcastle, they were trying to entice us to sign there – they didn't really have to do much, to be honest with you – and Glenn was the club captain at the time and on school holidays I would come in and train with the first team.
“Glenn was the captain and showed a lot of patience with us. And then when I was in the England squad under Glenn Hoddle, Glenn was one of the coaches so there's a lot of history between us.”
Certainly the new management duo made a more tan decent start against Ipswich this weekend – all that was really missing was the two extra points that, if only on chances created, Norwich should have taken.
“It was a terrific game for all the supporters,” said Clark, no stranger to tribal warfare given his unique place in Sunderland-Newcastle legend.
“Myself and Glenn took a lot of positives from the game – created lots of chances, played with a lot of belief, played some great football and finally in the end showed some fantastic character to come back from the position that they were in at half-time.
“So we're delighted with all those attributes that the players have shown.”
Attributes that, says Clark, will help keep them up.
“At 2-0 down, bottom of the table, they could easily have thrown in the towel; lost their confidence. But they didn't. They showed fantastic spirit and if there was any team that was going to win it, it was going to be us.
“So they've set their own standards. Myself and Glenn haven't set them – we have our own high standards – but they've gone out and performed and that's the least that they've got to achieve now.”
What Lee Clark will go on to achieve, only time will tell. But as Roeder made very plain this morning, his ambition is only to be encouraged. That's what the manager wants – characters that want to get on.
“Reserve coach, assistant manager… next step, eventually, is to manage. And that's what I want,” said Roeder.
“If he didn't want to manage I wouldn't be so keen to have him. Because I have to have ambitious people around me. And I've got no insecurities whatsoever about that,” added the new City chief, unmoved by the prosect of having to look over his shoulder every five minutes to see what his No2 and new first team coach are up to.
“Whereas some managers won't employ a coach who wanted to be a manager, I'm exactly the opposite. And the other coach, he desperately wants to be a manager. And he's only 28.
“So I'm surrounded by people who want to be managers!”