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Clark urges critics to give Rice time to make decision

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DECISION: Declan Rice. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

DECISION: Declan Rice. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

DECISION: Declan Rice. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

When Ciaran Clark captained the England U-20 side, he hardly envisaged a day when he would wear the captain's armband in a World Cup qualifier against Denmark. For Ireland.

Things don't always go to plan in football, especially international football, as Martin O'Neill understands this week as he's been deprived of the services of Declan Rice for Thursday's Nations League game in Wales.

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BEST FOOT FORWARD: Ciaran Clark on the ball during Ireland training. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Ciaran Clark on the ball during Ireland training. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Ciaran Clark on the ball during Ireland training. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The English FA didn't kick up a fuss when their former underage international Clark opted to play for Ireland but the Rice case has made headlines for the last two weeks as England made a push for the West Ham talent.

And Clark says it's not for him, or anyone else in the Irish camp, to try and influence Rice's decision as it's a call only the player himself can make.

"It's down to him. He's come in, enjoyed his time and he's done well. It's down to him now," says Clark of Rice.

"He's taking a bit of time and that's it. We have big games coming up now and we're not concentrating on anything that is going on outside of the camp."

Clark played for Ireland alongside Rice when the West Ham man made his senior debut in Turkey in March but Clark has not made contact, even to share his own experiences of switching one nation for another, as he did when joining the Irish fold.

"I haven't spoken to him, no," Clark said, explaining that his own defection to Ireland was stress-free, certainly not as difficult or controversial as Rice's decision to ask for time to make a call, as his then Aston Villa team-mate Richard Dunne helped out.

"It was pretty straight-forward, to be honest. There wasn't anything else to it. Richard Dunne, I remember, had a big part to play in it with the contacts and all that.

"We managed to get it done really quickly and yeah, it was brilliant. It all happened pretty quickly, it was something I was looking forward to do and it was great when it happened.

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"Obviously Declan has got some things that need to be sorted. But he's still a young lad.

"He knows what it's like, he knows the set-up, he enjoyed his time here. He knows everything about us, he has played brilliantly a couple of times. But it's up to him now and we're not thinking about that at all. We can't. That's all off-field stuff now, it's not our focus."

Clark's club, Newcastle United, have had a tough start to the new season with just one draw gained from five games, including a League Cup loss to a Championship side (Nottingham Forest).

However, the 28-year-old has managed to get game time, a bonus for Ireland boss Martin O'Neill given the current dearth of Irish talent in the Premier League.

In fairness, the Magpies have been seriously tested with a run of games against champions Manchester City and title contenders Tottenham and Chelsea.

"On paper, it's the not the ideal start but in the games we've been quite unlucky, to be honest," says Clark.

"Against Spurs, in the second-half, we were unlucky. We gave it a right go and we were probably unlucky not to get a draw.

"Against Cardiff, we had several chances in the last few minutes to win the game, we have been really unlucky.

"The effort and the attitude has been there. So, we keep doing what we are doing and eventually our luck will turn around."

Clark clearly knows the frustration being felt by manager Rafa Benitez due to the off-field problems at the club and the lack of investment from owner Mike Ashley.

"The lads do see it, the lads do know what's going on. But it's our job to come in and concentrate on the football side of things," he says.

"We don't really get caught up in it too much. We can't, we have to go out there, do our best, train, listen to the manager and do what we can do. We let the manager and the other staff deal with it."

 


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