Former Sunderland promotion hero Lee Clark regrets Mackem T-shirt picture

CATS OLD BOY: Birmingham City's manager Lee Clark
CATS OLD BOY: Birmingham City's manager Lee Clark

LEE CLARK admits the mindless manner of his Sunderland exit still leaves him full of regrets.

Birmingham manager Clark is braced for a hostile reception from the travelling Sunderland fans at St Andrews tonight in the Capital One Cup second round.

As a player, Clark enjoyed two successful seasons at the Stadium of Light; helping Sunderland to the play-off final and then promotion the following season after joining the Black Cats in a £2.5million deal from Newcastle United.

But following the conclusion of the Championship-title winning campaign under Peter Reid, Clark travelled to Wembley to watch Newcastle in the 1999 FA Cup final and was pictured in a t-shirt taunting Sunderland supporters.

Clark was transfer-listed and swiftly sold to Fulham, yet his reputation among Sunderland fans was forever tainted.

“I look back on it as stupidity. It’s not something you should be doing,” said Clark.

“I’d be disappointed if one of my players had done that. I cannot turn back time or change the past but I can affect the future. I’d like to help players in the future.

“It wasn’t as if I was walking round the streets of London, it was just a matter of seconds and you can imagine the amount of camera flashes.

“Of course it crosses my mind. I get remembered at my other two clubs for the good things. If that had not happened I could go back and people talk about football.

“But that will never be the case, especially the rivalry between the two clubs.

“It’s unfortunate and will never change. They are passionate about their club so it will be something a bit different.

“I’m now more mature and in a position where I feel it is a regrettable incident. I’ve had to move on from it.

“I don’t think the fans will be too complimentary about me. That was always going to be the case after what happened. I had two terrific years and that turned soar.

“The tin hat may have to come out that’s for sure!”

Clark had been one of the key figures in Reid’s side; netting 16 goals in 89 appearances for the Black Cats.

But Clark’s chances of ever enjoying a warm return to Sunderland were ruined by that one incident – his one and only subsequent appearance at the Stadium of Light coming during his second spell with Newcastle in 2005.

He added: “The toughest thing for me is everyone forgets the job I did for them as a player. That’s the biggest regret. It’s difficult for me to ever go and watch a game there like my other clubs.

“That’s difficult to take as for two years I was part of a successful team.

“That was my choice but I’m a lot more mature now. I have to pay the consequences of my action - and that is what will happen.

“It was hot when I went back before. It was 49,000 at the Stadium of Light and it was very vocal.

“When the draw was made the phone was red hot.”