Leeds United v Blackpool: Exclusive interview with Lee Clark

Neil Redfearn and Lee Clark on the touchline when Leeds played at St Andrew's in September.
Neil Redfearn and Lee Clark on the touchline when Leeds played at St Andrew's in September.
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HONOURS were even the last time Lee Clark faced Neil Redfearn in the dugout.

Redfearn was in the familiar role of caretaker boss as Leeds United drew 1-1 at Clark’s Birmingham City back in September.

A lot has changed since - Darko Milanic has been and gone at Leeds with Clark sacked by Blues and now a Tangerine at Blackpool.

But Clark knows what it takes to win at Elland Road and is quietly confident of upsetting the applecart in Saturday’s crunch clash at Elland Road.

As manager of Birmingham, Clark experienced both sets of emotions at Elland Road.

The Wallsend-born boss admitted the night’s beer tasted sweeter when Leroy Lita’s late strike defeated Neil Warnock’s Leeds in October 2012 - but the Geordie slammed his side’s efforts as “not acceptable” during a 4-0 rout to Brian McDermott’s men last October.

With Blackpool bottom of the Championship table - with seven points from 16 games - there will be those predicting a similar outcome to the latter this weekend.

Yet Leeds are in desperate need of a win themselves following a winless streak of eight games and Clark will bring with him a quiet confidence to Elland Road in light of Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw at Fulham. It was an immediate sign of the former midfielder beginning to weave a magic wand just one week into life at Blackpool.

The Tangerines boss says he has a lot of admiration for Redfearn as a manager - and respect for Leeds as a club - but that won’t stop him plotting the home side’s downfall tomorrow afternoon.

Clark exclusively told the YEP: “I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Neil.

“Obviously I faced him when I was Birmingham City manager - he had the team playing well and I think he will again.

“A lot of the players are the young players he’s brought through so it’s going to be an extremely tough match for us.

“Obviously Leeds is a huge club - of which there’s many in the Championship - and the support they get is fantastic.

“But tomorrow we believe if we replicate what we have done on Wednesday that we can go there and get a result.

“I’ve won at Leeds before and lost there before and I’m just going there with a new challenge, a new group of players, new staff and we’re hoping to get a result.

“It’s a big game for both teams really and for us we are looking to carry on where we left off on Wednesday night.”

Four days after Saturday’s 2-0 loss at home to Ipswich Town, Wednesday night’s draw at Fulham was Clark’s first point as Blackpool boss but it could and perhaps should have been more.

Goals from Ishmael Miller and Jacob Murphy gave the Tangerines a shock 2-0 lead but the momentum of the game changed when Blackpool captain Tony McMahon was sent off for lashing out four minutes before the interval.

However, even then Fulham struggled to take advantage, having to settle for a 2-2 draw through strikes from Scott Parker and Bryan Ruiz.

There are two schools of thought following that performance - that Blackpool will take huge confidence from the display - or that those exertions with ten men will have taken their toll come tomorrow afternoon at Elland Road.

Blackpool have had one less day to recover than Leeds who drew 2-2 with Charlton Athletic on Tuesday evening - and Clark’s squad travelled back to Blackpool straight after the game on Wednesday, eventually arriving home in the early hours of the morning.

Clark eventually got home at around 4am but is confident his players are already over Wednesday night’s exertions in London.

Furthermore, barely one week into his new role, the 42-year-old says his side’s best is yet to come.

“We got back in the early hours of yesterday morning which wasn’t ideal but we cannot help what the logistics are,” said Clark.

“We’ve done what we had to do and we think we’ve prepared the players properly for the game.

“They have recovered properly and we are looking to reproduce the performance that we did on Wednesday.

“Hopefully the lads have taken confidence from that performance on Wednesday night and they can take into tomorrow.

“It was a terrific performance by the lads at Fulham and 11 against 11 we were really good and deserved to win the game.

“Then when we went down to ten men and the lads defended brilliantly with a great work ethic.”

Reflecting on his first week in charge at Bloomfield Road, Clark continued: “In my first game I’d only been in for two days and the lads gave me everything they had.

“We missed one or two opportunities and got punished against Ipswich but now I’ve had a bit more time to work with them, though Wednesday still only made it one week since I’ve been at the club.

“It’s a big challenge here at Blackpool but it’s something I’m looking forward to.

“I’ve got my teeth into it, I’m only a week into it but time is of the essence and we need to do things quickly.

“We’d like to stay in the Championship, that’s the first thought in our mind.”

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