Jack Clarke has opened up on his time at Tottenham and the experience of working with Jose Mourinho.
Clarke was seen as one of the most promising young talents in the EFL when Tottenham shelled out £10m to snap him up from Leeds United in 2019.
However, the winger never managed to fulfil his potential during the three years he spent in North London and he also underwhelmed during his loan spells at Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers.
The 22-year-old, who has thrived since sealing a permanent move to Sunderland last summer, has now admitted that the switch to N17 came as a surprise.
Clarke told The Athletic: “The actual move to Tottenham was out of the blue.
“I knew I’d done quite well in a debut season at Leeds, but you never expect a team who’ve just lost in the Champions League final to be knocking on the door.
“There was uncertainty. You’re stepping up a level and I was only 17/18 that season. So you’re wondering whether you can survive in that environment, training with those players.
“‘Are they going to be a million miles away from what I am?’ Or, ‘Can I go there and… not stand out, but not feel out of place?’
“After my first week in pre-season, I felt I’d done alright and that doubt sort of goes. But it’s a bit daunting — you’re watching players on TV at World Cups and Champions League finals and suddenly you’re sat next to them putting your boots on to go training.
“But they’re only people at the end of the day. It’s just knowing you can survive and not look out of place.”
Clarke’s cause was not helped by the fact that the manager who brought him to Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino, was replaced by Mourinho just months after his arrival.
The winger remarked that he quite enjoyed working with the Portuguese coach, although his eccentric ways did come as a little bit of a shock, including a line that the former Spurs head coach delivered after his return from the loan spell at Loftus Road.
The former Leeds star said: “Pochettino was the manager who signed me but I went back on loan to Leeds for six months and by the time I came back to Tottenham, it was Mourinho. Again, there’s uncertainty: ‘Is he going to want anything to do with me?’
“But when I went in for pre-season (in 2020) Mourinho was brilliant with me, a really good guy. He wanted the best for me and the team, especially the young lads. He wanted to see the boys develop.
“I think he was at a point in his managerial career where it wasn’t so much about winning at all costs — and that fitted with the club’s philosophy.
“Ryan Sessegnon came through the door at the same time and we both came from the Championship, really. It was about embedding us in the squad and developing us. He was brilliant for that.
“To start with, it was about him seeing what you’re capable of. I remember the first day of pre-season. We were going out to train and I was introduced to him in the physio’s room as I was getting my ankle strapped.
“I’d just been on quite an unsuccessful loan at QPR and he knew, obviously. He just said: ‘Either you’re shit, or QPR are shit. And we’ll find out today.’
“That made me a little bit nervous. I went out to train, did quite well and he put me in his Europa League squad. So there were signs of confidence coming from him and I enjoyed working under him.”
Since his switch to the Stadium of Light, Clarke has demonstrated the potential that many saw him in as a youngster, having managed 11 goals and 12 assists across all competitions this season.
The youngster now has an opportunity to fire Sunderland into the Premier League via the playoffs and he admitted that he feels at home in the North East.
He said: “I have found a sense of belonging here: I feel comfortable and I’m enjoying playing my football. I think you can see that, not just with me but with the whole team. We look confident. And we should be.
“In football, it’s hard to get to a point where you are happy and just stay at that point. We all have ups and downs in terms of form and whatever else.
“But since I’ve come to this club, I feel like it’s been on an upward trajectory and with that direction, you don’t want to be left behind. The club’s getting stronger.
“You want to be in line with that; be one of those driving it forward. I feel it personally and a lot of the boys feel it. We’re thankful for the opportunity and we just try to repay it by performing.”
Spurs Web Opinion
Even if Sunderland do not get promoted, there is a decent chance Clark might be playing in the Premier League next season as a few top-flight clubs would be watching his progress closely.
However, I personally think it would be in the 22-year-old’s best interest to remain at Sunderland for one more season before considering a step up to a bigger club.
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