Darrell Clarke appears to be the man at top of Massimo Cellino’s hitlist to be the next head coach of Leeds United. Here’s five things you need to know about the Bristol Rovers manager...
1. Playing Career
Darrell Clarke joined Mansfield Town’s youth team set-up at the age of 10, before being promoted to the first team at 18. A midfielder, he made over 150 appearances for the Division Three club, before joing Hartlepool United in 2001 on a free transfer. He played over 120 games for Hartlepool, but in his final two years with the club he was sent out on loan to several clubs, including Stockport County, Port Vale and Rochdale. In 2007, he moved to non-league football with Salisbury City, where he remianed until the end of his playing career in 2013.
2. Managerial History
In 2010, Clarke became player-manager of Salisbury City. His tenure as manager involved a decent amount of positive transfer activity, and he managed them for three seasons before leaving in to become the assistant manager at Bristol Rovers ahead of the 2013/14 season. After a poor season for Rovers, then-manager John Ward became the director of football, and Clarke took over managerial duties in March 2014. Clarke’s appointment came too late for Rovers though, and they suffered relegation from League Two on goal difference on the final day of the season, losing 1-0 to his boyhood club Mansfield Town, when just a point would have been enough to keep them up.
As a manager, Clarke took Salisbury to the FA Cup Third Round for the first time in the club’s history, while achieving promotion with them via the playoffs twice. The first was from the Southern League Premier Division in his first season in charge, and the second from the Conference South in his third and final year as manager there. With Bristol Rovers, Clarke oversaw back-to-back promotions with the club, winning the Conference Premier play-off final against Grimsby Town on penalties, and achieving promotion to League One with a thirdplace finish in League Two the following year. In that two-year period, Clarke received the Manager of the Month award four times, three in his first full season and one in his second.
Clarke has managed 267 games in his two spells as manager, and his record is a positive one. His 157-game record at Salisbury City reads: W84 D35 L38, for a win ratio of 53.5%. He also has a good record from his 110 games at Bristol Rovers, which reads: W57 D25 L28, giving him a win ratio of 51.8%.
In both his years at Bristol Rovers, his side has scored over 70 league goals in a 46-game season (73 and 77 respectively). Those stats come close to a two-goals-a-game ratio suggesting a relatively attacking mentality. His teams have also succeded in keeping their league defensive record to conceding either a goal a game or lower (34 and 46 respectively). However, those stats come from the Conference Premier and League Two, and comparisons to the Championship are hard to make. Clarke also has a reputation for dabbling in the transfer market to good effect, both at Bristol Rovers and Salisbury City. He released 16 players and signed 13 on free transfers in his first season at Rovers, including free-scoring striker Matty Taylor.