This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club, assess the initial reaction from the fans, and then proceed to evaluate and reflect on whether fans were right to react in that way….
Jack Clarke is cutting a frustrated figure at Leeds United, there’s no denying it.
Leeds watched the teenage winger excel around the festive period last season, with Clarke’s blistering pace offering Marcelo Bielsa a useful option as his side searched for promotion.
Goals against Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest came about, with Clarke also assisting in big games against Sheffield United and Derby County; his impact impressive and a real gem on Leeds’ hands.
Illness struck him down at Middlesbrough in February, which led to the 18-year-old’s impact lessening, but he was still on the Premier League radar.
And, after Leeds blew promotion, Tottenham swooped to sign the winger, securing his permanent service before instantly loaning him back to Elland Road.
The long-term loss of Clarke to Tottenham brought concern, with Leeds’ fans believing they’d let a talented player go for a modest fee – reported to be £10m.
However, others were encouraged to see Clarke return to Elland Road for another season, with Leeds’ announcement greeted with promise.
Genius from Spurs. Potential top player bought for peanuts and loaned back to develop more under Bielsa. This lad has class and will make it at the top level. We will regret this move.
— Gavin Booth (@gavinbooth77) July 2, 2019
This is superb.
— David Guile 🦆 (@ellandduck) July 2, 2019
Don’t know how to feel about this
— 🇿🇼🇧🇷🇪🇬 (@Mxginn) July 2, 2019
Not sure about this at all. Bad enough we sell him, now we make him better and valuable for another club. Tinpot.
— StrachanPen (@crajik) July 2, 2019
Selling our top talent for a pitence, silly really. #lufc
— Gary Fleming (@garyfleming7) July 2, 2019
@alex_baikie you’ve signed a real star here nothing but raw potential should do bits at this level
— Wella (@jacob_weller67) July 2, 2019
Great stuff. Pontus around to welcome him back? 🤔
— meh (@meh22184444) July 2, 2019
With hindsight – albeit only a couple of months – that excitement was premature.
Clarke’s only outings for Leeds so far this season have been in the League Cup, with the teenager not completing 90 minutes in either game and Bielsa hauling him off at half-time as his side eventually crashed out to Stoke City in the second-round.
In terms of the Championship, Clarke has been an unused substitute on occasion, finding himself behind Jack Harrison, Pablo Hernandez and Helder Costa in the pecking order. He’s been the casualty when Bielsa has to leave one of his six loanees out of the matchday squad and featuring in the under-23s.
Overall, it hasn’t worked out so far for Clarke back at Leeds.
Yes, things might change as the season develops – after all Clarke wasn’t really on the scene 12 months ago – however, that positive reaction, when Leeds struck a deal with Tottenham for the winger to return, feels a lifetime ago.