Leon Clarke: bad attitude and bad signing

It was only last week that Alex Cooke introduced Leon Clarke on this site. Now Alex reviews Di Canio’s awful decision to sign Clarke.

“Paolo Di Canio in heated confrontation with Swindon’s Leon Clarke”, “Paolo Di Canio and Leon Clarke Come To blows” and “Di Canio’s Tunnel Bust Up”: it was exactly what the national media had been waiting for – the moment that the nutter with the nasty reputation blew his top.

Except of course, it was the wrong troublemaker who lost control, this time it was the much-travelled and man-baby of a striker, not the manager.

But what is remarkable about the story is not that Fleet Street’s carrion-feeders were circling before blood had even been scented, but how quickly Paolo Di Canio has been absolved by so many from any blame for the whole embarrassing circus.

This article isn’t about the undignified pushing and shoving that took place outside the tunnel, that has already been covered, but Paolo’s error in bringing a player such as Clarke to the club, on a substantial contact and undoubtedly sizeable wages, seemingly without any knowledge or understanding of his reputation.

Paolo himself admitted it yesterday: “No one had said to me that he was not very professional, only when he signed did someone send a text message to a member of the club saying ‘good luck for the nightmare’.”

How many phone calls would it have taken for someone to mention Clarke’s terrible attitude? One to Phil Brown who sent Clarke back to QPR from his loan spell at Preston after just one game? One to former Shrimpers boss Steve Tilson who saw Clarke flounce off down the tunnel after being substituted while on loan at Roots Hall. How about Glenn Hoddle, Dave Jones, Mick McCarthy or Brian Laws? Their answers would probably have been very similar they all wanted rid, or got rid, of Clarke.

If Paolo lacks the contacts in the game to do that, he could have looked at the stats and seen how often and quickly Clarke has been moved on by the clubs who have signed him. He also could have used Google, that is all I did for my article about Clarke and examples of his bad attitude popped up more often than promises of local milfs whose husbands must work nights.

What did Paolo base his decision on then? Hopefully he had a detailed scout’s report but seemingly it was a mixture of YouTube and desperation:  “I wanted an English striker and he wanted to come. I watched his videos and he created space, he had good technical ability and was the player I wanted, but I didn’t know him as a professional.”

To not bother with such rudimentary research as speaking to a few contacts, or perhaps even the player himself seems naive at best. And to then give this individual a two-year contact is surely reckless. Unless our Paolo views himself as a modern Disraeli crawling the kerbs looking for fallen players to reform.

Obviously Di Canio isn’t the only manager to make the mistake of signing Clarke but Neil Warnock could afford to freeze him out at QPR. There Clarke was a fringe player, a cheap gamble. But for Swindon, he was meant to be the mainstay of our strike force, the missing piece in our jigsaw. Now he is just a financial vacuum in our accounts. All this in a division with a wage cap.

All Paolo’s confidence in his own ability to reshape a man, or arrogance to not listen to others’ advice, has done is land us with a player who is publicly very damaged goods. A player on a long deal who, if we can send on loan, we will probably end up paying most of his wages as we won’t be in any position to negotiate with anyone desperate enough to take him away.

Clarke is clearly a problematic individual and a disruptive influence in the dressing room that Swindon Town will probably be better off without, but we would certainly be better off with two-years worth of Championship-level wages to spend on other throughly researched players – players who, alongside their manager, might be able to make headlines for the right reasons.

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