Leeds United: Pirates braced to rock the boat over Whites’ approach for manager Clarke

Darrell Clark.
Darrell Clark.
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Bristol Rovers are awaiting renewed contact from Leeds United after giving a cool response to an approach from United for manager Darrell Clarke.

The newly-promoted League One side are ready to grant Leeds permission to open talks with Clarke provided owner Massimo Cellino meets a list of “conditions” sent back to Elland Road after initial discussions between the two clubs.

Leeds made an official approach for 38-year-old Clarke after talks between Cellino and MK Dons manager Karl Robinson fell through last week and the former Hartlepool United midfielder looks to be a clear frontrunner to replace Steve Evans at Elland Road.

Clarke holds a year-long rolling contract with Rovers, a deal which permanently ties him to the Memorial Stadium for the 12 months ahead, and Leeds would be required to agree compensation before starting negotiations with him.

Rovers reacted to Leeds’ expression of interest by offering Clarke an improved three-year deal following talks between him and club chairman Steve Hamer on Monday. Clarke is considering that proposal as he waits to see if Leeds will agree to Rovers’ demands. United are yet to make any comment in response to Bristol Rovers’ statement.

The move for Clarke so soon after Cellino’s meeting with Robinson in London last week has all but confirmed that Cellino intends to replace Evans as head coach before the start of pre-season.

Evans was on holiday in Dubai as news of United’s interest in Clarke and Robinson broke and the YEP understands that some close to the Scot are now advising him to quit Elland Road with his contract due to expire on June 30.

Evans declined to confirm that but said last night that he would be back at work at Thorp Arch this morning having flown back to England yesterday evening.

“I’m refreshed and l’ll be working until someone tells me different,” Evans said.

Evans has had little communication from Cellino since they spoke at length at a meeting on April 29 and United’s owner is abroad in his homeland this week. Cellino told the Mirror last night that he was undecided on his choice of head coach and had been speaking to a foreign candidate in Italy.

In a statement, Rovers said they would have “nothing else to report” until Leeds returned to them with an acceptable offer.

“Bristol Rovers can confirm that they have received an approach from Leeds United to speak to Darrell Clarke regarding him taking over as manager at Elland Road,” the statement read.

“As yet, the Yorkshire side have failed to meet the conditions set out by Rovers to enable any talks to take place and until that happens there is nothing else to report.

“We can also confirm that Rovers have offered Darrell a new and improved three-year contract to remain as Bristol Rovers manager.”

Clarke is a relatively inexperienced Football League manager but his record at Bristol Rovers, where he was appointed manager in March 2014, already shows promotion from both the National League and League Two. In his previous role at Salisbury City, he guided the non-league club out of Conference South in 2013.

Clarke would be the seventh manager or head coach employed by Cellino in the two years since the Italian bought control of United.

Evans became the longest serving of those bosses last month, seeing out 38 matches after his appointment in October, but his camp appear to have conceded that his reign is at an end.

Robinson, who has been with MK Dons for six seasons, agreed to meet with Cellino for talks in London last week but emerged from that meeting with doubts about working under the Italian and is no longer in the running.