Clark determined to silence critics – especially Hansen
CIARAN Clark was lambasted by Alan Hansen's tongue on 'Match of the Day' recently, but the 23-year-old has been backed to succeed by Richard Dunne.
Clark – in contention for a starting place in Ireland's World Cup tie in Stockholm on Friday – is big, brave and bold enough to stick to his guns. And he is very much his own man.
It helps that Dunne is always available to give advice when the formidable ex-Irish skipper deems it necessary, but his self-confidence remains high despite a searing analysis by Hansen in front of a multi-million TV audience last month.
For Clark – club captain at Aston Villa and thrust into Dunne's former centre-back role as the latter remains out of action with a groin injury – it is a case of 'next game, next challenge'.
On Saturday, relegation-threatened Villa carved out a vital 3-2 home win against QPR.
That result followed a 2-1 away victory over Reading, and now Clark and his team-mates enter the international break with their confidence increased.
The next step is to work hard in training this week and see if Giovanni Trapattoni gives the English-born player a place in the starting line-up.
Even if that doesn't happen, Clark is clearly the heir-apparent to his mentor Dunne at club and international level.
Football being the game it is, one door closes and another opens, and that has been the situation for Clark.
"Richard is a big loss for us and hopefully he can get himself fit. We could certainly have used his experience this season. He's still around the club and looking fit. If he's watching a game he'll talk to you and let you know what he thinks and will offer you advice," said Clark.
"On a personal level, the more games you play, the more you learn and develop as a player. It's not nice when a chance comes through players being injured, but sometimes a lad needs that chance, and when it comes you must take it."
Villa boss Paul Lambert certainly trusts Clark and made him captain, but for a young player in a struggling side, what can you do when Liverpool legend Hansen criticises you from the 'Match of the Day' studio, as he did after Villa's 3-3 draw with Everton last month?
Clark didn't, happily, put his boot through the TV.
Instead, he said: "It's something you take on board, but we sit down as a team, and the manager sits down with us and we go through what we have to go through.
"All we can do is take on board what the manager and coaching staff say and learn from it.
"I heard a few bits of what was said (on the TV programme) but people have their opinions and you don't really take it too harshly.
"If you did that, you'd have all sorts going through your head. It's just one of those things you've got to move on with and forget about it."
Looking ahead to Sweden, and the prospect of playing against Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic is far more to Clark's taste.
"No work's been done on analysis yet and we don't know the team, but whoever plays on the night will give it everything," he said.
"I've seen a couple of the PSG matches. Ibrahimovic is on fire and he's got a couple of goals, but I've never played against him and I don't know what sort of a character he is."