PAUL SCHOLES is providing the inspiration as Lee Clark plots this season’s League I promotion bid.
The 36-year-old Manchester United ace’s recent retirement and testimonial against New York Cosmos at Old Trafford struck a chord with Town’s determined manager.
“Paul was the best I played against, a master wherever he was on the pitch,” said fellow midfielder Clark ahead of tomorrow’s derby trip to Rochdale.
“People said he wasn’t the best tackler in a technical sense, but he knew not take chances in the defending third.
“In the middle third, his control was so good – pretty much half rather than one touch – you could hardly get near him.
“And in the final third he had that ability to beat someone and put the ball in the net.”
Now Clark, a keen student of the game, wants his players to learn from the best.
“Obviously I want them to have the skill,” he explained.
“When I signed Anthony Pilkington, I said he had the potential to be a Premier League player, and I believe we have four or five in the squad now who can follow him.
“But it’s also about the ability to make the right decisions, and that’s what we’re working on as well.”
Clark was delighted at the way his side bounced back from Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 home draw with Bury by beating Port Vale in the first round of the Carling Cup on Tuesday.
But he knows they will have to remain firmly on that upward curve, with the Rochdale showdown being followed by Tuesday’s trip to Hartlepool.
“Each player on the pitch at Port Vale did a lot of positive things,” said Clark, who made six changes to his starting XI down in the Potteries, where his side won 4-2.
“We looked at the Bury game and saw a lot of things we weren’t happy with, and a lot of them were done better against Port Vale.
“But at times we were over-indulgent, trying that one extra pass or that fancy flick in the wrong area on the pitch.
“That’s where you come back to the top players, like Paul Scholes, because they never take any liberties.
“There are still areas to brush up on and we have to eradicate the faults, and do it fast, because we’ve got two tough game coming up.
“I’ve seen Rochdale in pre-season and they are a terrific footballing side, and we have to deal with that.
“I like my teams to play passing football, and that’s what we try to do, but it’s not all about pretty football, particularly away from home.
“It’s sometimes about being methodical and tough to beat, and if we can achieve that, we certainly have the players who can nick a goal.”
Town chalked up a club-record 13 away wins last season but suffered a 3-0 setback at Rochdale, a result which Clark felt failed to reflect the game.
His side return tomorrow aiming to put the record straight, and equal another club record, set between January and October 1925, of 27 regular-league games unbeaten.