By Tim Treacy
One of the best signings Kenny Dalglish made last January was to bring fellow Scot, Steve Clarke to Liverpool as first team coach. Before joining Liverpool, Clarke had worked at Chelsea, Newcastle, and West Ham United and his work at these clubs was met with a significant amount of praise from everyone in the know. His work at Liverpool this past year has been exemplary and Clarke has been hailed as the man who has given Liverpool back their defensive resolve. During his playing days, Clarke was renowned for his tactical mind, and he has continued to enhance that reputation during his coaching career.
Clarke learned his trade as defender, first at St. Mirren where he made 200 appearances and scored 7 goals between 1982-87, and then at Chelsea where he made 330 appearances and scored 7 goals between 1987-1998. With Chelsea, he won the FA Cup in 1987, the League Cup in 1998, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, and the Full Members Cup in 1990. Clarke was Chelsea’s player of the year in 1994 and was named as a defender in their centenary eleven in 2005.
Clarke’s coaching career began immediately following his retirement as a player. In 1998, he hung up his boots at Chelsea and joined Newcastle United as assistant manager to Ruud Gullit, his former boss at Chelsea. Clarke enjoyed a somewhat successful first season at Newcastle, helping to steer the club to an FA Cup final in 1999 only to lose to Manchester United 2-0. Newcastle finished 13th in the league that year and there were many problems off the field at the club, most of it involving Ruud Gullit and some Newcastle stars. Clarke left Newcastle after taking temporary charge for one game following Gullit’s resignation at the beginning of the 1999/2000 season.
Clarke then went to work for Chelsea’s youth team set up, and it wasn’t until 2004 that José Mourinho promoted him to assistant manager. While Clarke was assistant manager, Chelsea went on to win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups over three seasons. In 2008, Clarke resigned from Chelsea as he was looking to pursue more challenges as coach. He joined West Ham in 2008 and helped guide the club to a 9th place finish in the league. In 2009 his work did not go unnoticed and West Ham gave Clarke a new contract, making the highest paid assistant manager in the Premier League.
It was on January 10th, 2011 that Kenny Dalglish made Clarke first team coach at Liverpool. Following the departure of Sammy Lee on July 1st, 2011, Clarke was promoted to assistant manager of Liverpool Football Club.
Since Clarke’s arrival at Liverpool, there has been a marked improvement in their defense. Not only that, but Daniel Agger is enjoying his longest ever spell in Liverpool’s first team, Glen Johnson seems like a different player compared to years past, and Martin Skrtel has become a new man. Add to that mix last summer’s best signing, Jose Enrique, and it is clear that Clarke’s work with the defenders at Melwood is paying off great dividends.
Many Liverpool players have spoken openly about Clarke’s coaching skills. Charlie Adam said he is on of the best coaches he has ever trained with. Adam said,
“I’d heard about Steve Clarke before I came here and I knew by his record that he was highly rated. He’s been at some top clubs and been successful. He’s a very good coach and, as time goes on, we’ll get better thanks to his methods.”
Clarke is famous for his one-and-one ‘teaching’ sessions as well as group training sessions. Adam believes that working with Clarke “helps us (Liverpool) to become better individuals and a better group.” Clarke is seen as true teacher and academic of the game.
Daniel Agger is another player to lavish praise on Clarke saying, “Steve has made a big, big impact and he is really good. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Martin Kelly simply said, “Steve is brilliant. To learn from ex-players of Steve’s ability is great.”
Steven Gerrard also hailed Clarke’s arrival saying that Clarke was “a fantastic addition to the coaching staff.” He went on to say “I think he’s a great appointment. From what I’ve seen he’s supported some fantastic managers in his career. He played at the top-level and has vast experience in the game.”
It is clear Clarke is very well-respected at Anfield and beyond the L4. He has turned Liverpool’s defense into one of the best in the Premier League this past year. Liverpool have conceded just 18 goals this season in the league from 20 games, the 2nd best record in the league.
Kenny Dalglish receives a lot of due applause for his work with Liverpool Football Club, but let us not forget the unsung hero Steve Clarke who has also played a huge part in Liverpool’s turn around this past twelve months. Even Kenny Dalglish praised Clarke and said, “The best way to get results is to get great people working with you and that’s what we did [with Steve]. You identify your faults and bring in someone that’s better than you at what you can’t do and we’ve got a good chance. Steve [is] much better at what he does than what I could do for him.”
Liverpool have unfinished business to do, and it seems as if they have the best coaching staff around to help them with that aim.
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