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'Phenomenal' Clark gives Trap reasons to be cheerful

CIARAN CLARKE once again underlined why England's loss will be Ireland's gain as Aston Villa saw off Blackburn Rovers to book a fifth-round date at either Notts County or Manchester City.

On this evidence, Giovanni Trapattoni will be delighted that Harrow-born Ciaran Clark, who captained England to U-20 level, has opted to represent Ireland.

These are still early days, but the 21-year-old Clark shows signs of possessing the poise, athleticism and flexibility which has characterised the great utility players, from Duncan Edwards to Paul McGrath and Michael Essien via Paul Madeley and Paul Lake.

"Ciaran was phenomenal," said Villa manager Gerard Houllier, whose analysis of his burgeoning talent could have been a pen picture of Gareth Barry.


"He can play left-back, centre-back and in midfield. And he scores goals. He got one and nearly had another. He's a clever player with good awareness.

"Even at the end of the match he saved a goal."

Clark headed Villa in front but Nikola Kalinic replied before Robert Pires (37) and Nathan Delfouneso (19) struck to exemplify Houllier's claim of a "good combination of experience and youth".

Blackburn could not respond, even after the 62nd-minute dismissal of Nathan Baker for a two-footed challenge.

Pires' display, while some way short of Arsenal pomp, was his best for Villa and drew a mea culpa from Houllier: "I think I may have made a mistake by starting him too early. We were short of personnel so I launched him in his first game against Arsenal, which was difficult. It took him two months to get back to a certain level of fitness."

Irish Independent