Sunderland saw off Norwich City on Saturday and having reached the playoffs last season are making a run for the top six with the youngest side in the Championship, led by 22-year-old winger Jack Clarke
Can Sunderland hold on to the Championship leading scorer Jack Clarke in January?
Tony Mowbray is pondering a significant question due to the exceptional quality of winger Clarke, who stands out as a Premier League caliber talent. Interestingly, Clarke was a player that Tottenham Hotspur let slip away.
At the age of 22, Clarke has already netted nine goals this season, although it’s worth noting that four of them were from penalty kicks. His close ball control, precise passing, and relentless work rate have captured the attention of top-tier clubs.
His market value has surged, considering that Burnley’s summer bids, ranging from a measly £5 million to £10 million, were rejected. To put it in perspective, Spurs acquired him from Leeds for the same amount four years ago. Following his impressive 12-goal performance last season and 59 appearances for Sunderland, it’s plausible that his value has tripled.
Mowbray’s primary goal is to construct a campaign for promotion, not to sell key assets. Former chairman Bob Murray recently expressed confidence that owner Kyril Louis Dreyfus would not part with a star player crucial to their Premier League aspirations.
Mowbray is now focused on further developing Clarke’s skills, even encouraging him to study videos of Thierry Henry’s artful moves, particularly Henry’s ability to unleash shots with minimal backswing.
In a recent match against Norwich, Clarke not only scored a penalty but also set up Dan Neil’s goal. Mowbray couldn’t help but praise his abilities, calling him a “wonderful talent.” The club has received offers for Clarke, and their plans for January remain uncertain.
Mowbray is curious about Clarke’s goal tally for the season, especially if they can maintain their current attacking momentum. He believes Clarke’s exceptional aerobic capacity, his ability to sprint tirelessly, is a valuable asset. Mowbray is optimistic that Clarke will continue to score and trouble opponents while diversifying his style of play, and he hopes the club will do everything possible to retain him for a successful season.
Last year, after discussions in the summer, they set a target of 70 goals to secure a playoff spot, especially considering the departures of players like Amad Diallo and Ross Stewart. Mowbray initially doubted whether Clarke could match his contributions from the previous season, where he scored 12 goals. However, with nine goals already to his name, Clarke seems to be on track to meet or exceed those expectations.
Mowbray also has his eye on Patrick Roberts, hoping he can start contributing goals and compete with Clarke. He emphasizes the need for goals to come from both sides of the pitch, aiming for the elusive 70-goal target.