A Premier League player in waiting: The inside view on Sunderland star and Burnley-linked Jack Clarke
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According to transfer guru Fabrizio Romano, the Clarets have lodged a bid for the 22-year-old, who is also wanted by Brentford and Crystal Palace.
However, the Black Cats – who missed out in the Championship play-offs this season – are desperate for him to stay and are in talks over a new deal.
We caught up with James Copley, who covers the Black Cats for our sister title, the Sunderland Echo, to get the inside view on the winger, who scored 11 times this season to help Tony Mowbray’s men reach the top six.
His numbers have certainly been impressive this season, just how good has he been?
He has been fantastic, quite simply. A lot has been said about Manchester United loanee Amad Diallo and his partnership with Patrick Roberts on Sunderland's right-hand side (and rightly so) but Clarke, operating on the left, has been just as good. 23 goal contributions in all competitions this season, including two against Premier League side Fulham in the FA Cup over two games, paint the picture of productivity, quality and consistency from an outside perspective and that portrait is certainly accurate.
Is it fair to say he's really come on and developed since his initial loan spell?
Absolutely. He has come on leaps and bounds from his loan spell, which was still fruitful. Clarke set up Roberts' winner in the League One play-off semi-final second-leg against Sheffield Wednesday during that spell before signing permanently in the summer. Since then, he has grown in stature and confidence owing to regular game time. No outfield player started more games for Sunderland in the Championship this season.
He obviously didn't get the game time he would have wanted at Spurs, but do you think he's ready for the top flight? And has he made any noise about wanting to test himself at the highest level?
I think his numbers, work rate and never-say-die attitude suggest he is a Premier League player in waiting. There hasn't been too much noise from Clarke at all since his arrival and nothing regarding a move away as he is under contract until 2026 but it will be interesting to see how the player handles this. As you mention, he has gone for big money before and failed to make an impact - he is now, however, a different player from that of 2019.
What's the likelihood of a sale? Are supporters concerned about losing him?
Given his goals and assists this season, I think Sunderland fans will be slightly concerned, especially given Amad Diallo's return to Manchester United. Losing both your first-choice number 10 and key attacking left-winger in one window could prove highly problematic with expectations raised for the 2023/24 season following Sunderland's top six finish in the Championship.
What are his key attributes? Do you think he'd fit into Vincent Kompany's style of play?
From what I saw of Burnley last season under Vincent Kompany, I think Jack Clarke would certainly fit into the Clarets' style of play well. Clarke is a very direct attacker and likes to beat his man, as you'd expect from a winger. He isn't blisteringly quick but he carries the ball excellently. Clarke's attitude defensively has also been top-notch this season and he rarely gets downhearted if things aren't falling for him. He makes things happen on a football pitch in an attacking sense, sometimes out of very little, which obviously hasn't gone unnoticed by clubs higher up the food chain to Sunderland.