Lee Clark states the Chairman’s ambition for the club sold it to him, and forced him into leaving a good job at Kilmarnock.
Following Lee Clark’s appointment as the 39th Bury manager on Wednesday, his first task as the new Shakers gaffer was to meet the press. Representatives from local TV, Radio, Local written media as well as national TV crews were on hand to get that, all important, first interview.
Following his appointment, Lee Clark revealed that leaving Scottish Premier League side Kilmarnock was a difficult decision, but once he sat down and heard Bury Chairman Stewart Day’s ambition for the club, he was sold and began the long trip down the M6 full of excitement for the challenge ahead.
“I was in a great job at Kilmarnock, I was enjoying it, after a little setback, but I was enjoying it” said Clark. “I took a call from the directors at Kilmarnock telling me that there had been an approach and, to be honest, I was quite surprised. I was preparing the team for Sunday’s game with Aberdeen at Rugby Park, but when I got the chance to speak to the Chairman and I heard the ambition, his ambition matched mine.
“I wouldn't have taken any job to leave the one I was in. I wasn't a manager out of work, I was in a good job, I had a good team, a good squad, a very good, loyal, group of players and they were working tremendously hard for me, but this role appeals to my ambition. It’s very similar to what I felt like when I first walked in at Huddersfield Town and a similar sort of reaction I had with the owner there.
“It was still a difficult decision to take, and it was difficult to turn around to the directors and Chairman at Kilmarnock telling them that I was going to take the Bury job. I have made a lot of friends there and I look forward to going back there to see good friends at Kilmarnock Football Club.
“My family and I were treated fantastically well at Kilmarnock, the players gave me everything, the staff were loyal and very good and the supporters were superb. I was backed by great directors so, of course, it was a difficult decision, it’s never easy. I think you only get another job in football if you are working, if you are doing things right.
“It was my 12-month anniversary at Kilmarnock, a couple of days ago, and in that short space of time I have added a squad of value, a younger squad and I kept the team in the league in the first half of my campaign there, we took them from the bottom of the table to the top six in the SPL. We also brought five or six youngsters from the academy into the first team to make their debuts as well as making money in the transfer market.”
When asked what lured him to Gigg Lane and the Shakers training base at Carrington, the answer was simple – ambition.
“The Chairman used the word ambition, the long-term plan for the club, but the short-term plan is to stay in this division and that’s the main objective for the next 14 league games, but overall is the ambition that you see around the club.
“The facility at Carrington is key to the Chairman’s ambition, and to my ambition. I want to create a training ground environment. There is no better training ground than Carrington and I want to create the atmosphere where the players do not want to leave the training ground and to try and improve themselves. There is a potential new stadium on the horizon in a couple of years’ time, which is another big thing.”
Lee Clark is under no illusion at the size of the task he has been given, but states that the lads now have 14 cup finals to play with the main objective being League One survival and to get out of the bottom four, a task that starts at the Proact Stadium on Saturday.
“The short-term plan is League One survival, but we have plenty of games to do that. 14 games and they are all cup finals, none more so than at Chesterfield on Saturday. The team are coming off the back of a decent little run with two clean sheets, four points from six. That has built a little bit of confidence in the side along with the change of formation.
“There won't be too much from me leading into the Chesterfield game on Saturday because the team are obviously doing a lot of good things right now, but now it’s me getting a watching brief on them very quickly, making assessments on the players and who I think are the players to do the short-term job to keep the club in the division and then build.”
With one of the best training grounds in football at his disposal, Clark states that the clubs training ground was a major factor in taking the job on.
“The first day was very exciting for me, I was up and at Carrington very early and it was like your first day back at school. I've been meeting all the staff and have met the players later in the day, then we had the first training session so I was getting accustomed to this impressive training facility. I'm looking forward to it and, so far, everyone has been very welcoming and I am excited by the challenge.
“I've been to Carrington before, when Manchester City had it, but Carrington was one of the main factors for me to take the job. This facility will attract players in the future. The players will be spending most of their time here. They might be at the Stadium once every couple of weeks but Carrington is where you must create that environment where they never want to leave and this place ticks those boxes straight away. It gives us half a chance of getting players in and improving players because they want to be at the training facility.”
As for the players and coaching staff, Lee has a short space of time in which to get to new his new charges, but it’s one of many tasks that he looks forward to getting stuck into.
“I know one or two of the players, but their confidence levels will be good now because they have had positive results from the last two games. They have done the first thing you need to do in any footballing sense, whether you are going for promotion or staying in the league, they are not conceding goals and have kept two clean sheets in the last two games, they have taken four points from six.
“Some of the players have worked with me before and they know what I am about. I'm an honest man and I work extremely hard on the game and I expect the same from my players. Coupled with the ability that I know they have, we can get positive results.
“Potentially, I could bring my own coaching staff in, but there are lots of good staff that are already here. They will get assessed and, without putting any pressure on them, they must relax and do their jobs and enjoy coming into work.
“For me, I cannot affect the past, but I can affect the future. I want people to come in with a smile on their face, enjoy the environment that they are working in and I want the staff to feel the same. I’ve got high demands and high standards but I am fair with people. I like to win, but I like people to enjoy their job as well.
“Every game is a big game now, the next game is the biggest, every game is huge for us now, from Saturday to the end of the season, now we have to win as many of them as possible.”