Frank Clark wills Newcastle’s players on to emulate Fairs Cup heroes

LOOKING ON ... Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew during the Premier League match at the Madejski Stadium.
LOOKING ON ... Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew during the Premier League match at the Madejski Stadium.
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FRANK Clark was in the last Newcastle United team to lift a trophy.

And the 69-year-old can still vividly remember that magical night in Hungary vividly when the club won Fairs Cup.

Frank Clark

Frank Clark

Forty three years later, Clark’s still waiting for another major piece of silverware to arrive at St James’s Park.

The success of 1969, when the club beat Ujpest Dozsa in a two-legged final, is still talked about on Tyneside, with the players from that side revered for the achievement.

Newcastle, of course, are again back in Europe.

And Clark would love to see United win the Europa League.

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Alan Pardew’s side take on Bordeaux at St James’s Park tomorrow night in a group stage game, and Clark will be rooting for the club he represented 457 times in his long playing career.

“I want them to win something,” Clark told the Gazette.

“I’m sick of people telling me they haven’t won anything since ‘69 – I’d be absolutely delighted to get rid of that. It would be great if they could.

“They’re filling the place again, and let’s hope they can go a long way in Europe.”

However, Pardew must juggle his playing resources given the importance of keeping the bulk of his first-choice XI fresh for the Premier League.

And he has fielded significantly weakened teams in the club’s three European games so far this season.

Mindful of the importance of a strong domestic season, Pardew has said he would only strengthen his Europa League starting XI in the latter stages.

Clark, pictured, and his team-mates struggled to win an English league game after a midweek European tie because of the toll travelling and playing on the continent took on the team.

And former Nottingham Forest manager Clark, involved with the League Manager’s Association (LMA), understands the balancing act facing Pardew this season.

“I know some people think this Europa League is a poisoned chalice,” said Consett-born Clark, who was back on Tyneside last month for a dinner organised by Heroes, Newcastle United’s former players’ association.

“But if you’re in it, and have fought hard to qualify, you should try and win it.

“It puts a strain on your playing resources, but it’s a competition you should try to win. I’d like to see them go for it.

“I understand Alan will have to use his whole squad. It’s hard now to play on a Thursday and play a game on the Sunday. When we were in the Fairs Cup, I don’t think we won many games after we came back, which would have been a Wednesday night to a Saturday.

“I don’t think we won many times after a midweek European game.

“But he’s got a decent squad, but he probably wishes he had one or two more.

“All managers would like one or two more.”

Pardew’s achievement in guiding Newcastle to a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League last season was recognised by the LMA’s members, who named him the country’s manager of the season. The 51-year-old was also voted the Premier League’s manager of the season by sponsors Barclays.

And Clark, a former vice-president of the LMA, believes the accolades were richly deserved, with Newcastle having been expected to struggle in the league after the departures of influential players Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Joey Barton.

“He did an incredible job last season,” added Clark.

“At the start of the season, they were probably everybody’s favourites to get relegated, but they had a wonderful season.

“It was a tremendous achievement, and he deserved all the awards he got. He won both awards – the Premier League one and he walked away with the members award, which is very difficult to win. It doesn’t happen very often.

“For any club outside of the real big hitters, to get into Europe is a great achievement.”

Clark’s also praised the “businesslike” manner in which the club is being run by owner Mike Ashley.

“The club seems to be quite harmonious at the minute,” he said. “I came up here a few years ago for a memorial for Bobby (Sir Bobby Robson), and it wasn’t good at all. They seem to have sorted that out. The chairman’s running the club on a proper, businesslike footing, which needs to be done, and Alan’s doing great with the team.

“I’m delighted. It must be great for the supporters.”

* Manchester United’s Patrice Evra is desperate to avoid another St James’s Park “disaster”.

Newcastle United beat the club side 3-0 at home last season.

And the two teams meet again on Tyneside on Sunday.

“Last season up there was a disaster – we played very badly,” Evra said. “We don’t want another wake-up call. We have to score first and control the game.”

Twitter: @milesstarforth

The Gazette’s Europa League coverage is in association with UTS Engineering Ltd. http://www.uts-ltd.com/