Jack Clarke ready to bide his time after whirlwind Leeds United debut

Jack Clarke on the ball during his Leeds United debut against Brentford.
Jack Clarke on the ball during his Leeds United debut against Brentford.
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Jack Clarke is ready to be patient in pursuit of a serious first-team run at Leeds United after admitting he had joined a dressing room with “a willingness to win every single week.”

Clarke took his first step into senior football with a debut in Leeds’ 1-1 draw against Brentford 10 days ago, breaking through under Marcelo Bielsa at the age of just 17.

Leeds United midfielder Pablo Hernandez, who is on the way back from injury.

Leeds United midfielder Pablo Hernandez, who is on the way back from injury.

Bielsa sent him on as a substitute for the final 20 minutes to help Leeds earn a point through a late equaliser from Pontus Jansson.

Clarke, who turned professional on his 17th birthday last year, had been part of Bielsa’s matchday squad in previous weeks amid a glut of absences at Elland Road and got his opportunity as a replacement for Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas.

The winger is highly rated by the coaching staff at Thorp Arch and had been touted for a first-team role on the strength of his performances for the United’s Under-18s and Under-23s.

United’s squad is being strengthened, however, by the return of Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Gaetano Berardi from injury and Clarke admitted that he might have to bide his time with Leeds third in the Championship table.

“That (a place in Bielsa’s line-up) is what I want but when the team’s playing very well it’s going to be hard to break through and start,” Clarke told LUTV. “You’ve just got to keep pushing, training hard and see if you get an opportunity.

“I’ve never been involved in anything like it. Everyone’s just got a willingness to win every single week, and a want to win. They bring it out of each other.

“It’s not just one person. If someone’s having a bad game or not playing very well then everybody will lift them. If the result isn’t going well, they’ve still got a belief that they’re going to win or get something out of the game.”

Clarke said he had been struck by the intensity of the clash between Leeds and Brentford, both of whom are competing near the top of the Championship.

Asked to describe the emotion of his debut, the youngster said: “When I first got told I was going to come on it didn’t hit me straight away. I just got ready as quick as I could and got on the pitch as quick as I could. I couldn’t think about making my debut until after, when it really settled in.

“I felt nervous standing on the side of the pitch but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve watched a few things back and I couldn’t remember doing any of it because everything was so quick.

“As soon as I came on you could tell the intensity was much harder and more physically demanding. Everyone’s more focused. No-one’s ever switched off.”