Clarke still dreams of being the number one
IF MANAGER Gianfra-nco Zola provides the inspiration behind the success at Upton Park, then his assistant Steve Clarke provides the application, writes DAVE EVANS. The Scottish coach signed a new four-year deal to continue the renaissance at West Ham, but
IF MANAGER Gianfra-nco Zola provides the inspiration behind the success at Upton Park, then his assistant Steve Clarke provides the application, writes DAVE EVANS.
The Scottish coach signed a new four-year deal to continue the renaissance at West Ham, but the former Chelsea man still harbours ambitions of being the numero uno at a football club.
"Medium to long term, I want a manager's job," admitted Clarke. "That was my aim at Chelsea and the next step was to become a manager.
"It was very unusual circumstances that saw me come across London and I didn't see it coming. But when I spoke to Gianfranco and the people here, the project they had in mind, they just sold it to me very well and I'm glad I came."
Clarke may be keen on a manager's job, but he knew that it was never going to happen at Stamford Bridge.
"It wasn't realistic that Chelsea would have offered me the job," he said. "I think I could have been the manager there, but they wouldn't have given me the chance.
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"I'm not bitter at all and I understand why they did what they did."
Chelsea's loss is the Hammers gain. The players speak very highly of the contribution that the number two has made to the club, especially on the training ground, but as he freely admits, it proved to be something of a sticky beginning.
"We came in with a philosophy of how we wanted them to play and it wasn't easy for them at the start," he explained. "We went on a terrible run, but they kept believing and we kept telling them that this was the right way, and eventually this season, we've had our rewards."
That is the thing about Clarke and Zola. You understand by how they explain things that this is a long-term project, that so much thought and planning has gone into the future of West Ham, that as long as the powers that be can keep their eyes on the financial ball, then success could be just around the corner.
"The club wanted us to be together as a team and work on a long-term project, not a quick fix," explained Clarke. "They have backed us 100 per cent and we'd like to repay that faith and get as high up the league as we can.
"Anyone can walk in with ideas, but the players have to take the credit for making those ideas work and embracing them."
Clarke certainly had the high-life at Stamford Bridge. If there was a problem the club would buy their way out of trouble, but since arriving at Upton Park, the Scot has been forced to find a different sort of solution.
It is a task he has relished: "At Chelsea I was always working with the cream of the players in Europe, and problems would be solved by throwing money at it," he revealed.
"I've come to a club where if you have a problem, you have to solve it in a different way. We've had a lot of injuries and had to get a few players in. We've ended up working with young players that might not have played this season, but we've had to deal with it and they've responded great. It's been very satisfying."
So what is the next step for Clarke and West Ham?
"I want to be involved in European football every year," he said. "If there's one thing I miss with Chelsea, it's involvement in the Champions League.
"Why should the club not want to be involved? You have to push yourself and challenge yourself. Maybe next season we'll get to a stage where we wish we hadn't qualified, but we'll deal with that when we come to it.
"If you have the ambition then you have to chase the highest that you can get."
Clarke's ambitions are still loftier than being number two at West Ham, but it is something that Zola is fully aware of.
"Gianfranco know my ambitions to be a manager, but he's very happy with that, because he knows it's not going to happen next week, next month, or next year. It's something for the future."
Something that may also be in the future is the possibility that Zola may want to manage in Italy or even at Chelsea.
If that happens, then West Ham could do an awful lot worse than move Steve Clarke up to be the Hammers' number one.