Jack Clarke: The Prolific Winger Lighting it Up at the Stadium of Light

At 23 years of age, it has been quite the whirlwind career for Jack Clarke. After a decade at Leeds, Clarke made the move to Tottenham in 2019 for £10 million plus add-ons on the back of an impressive campaign that would see him win Leeds’ Young Player of the Year for 2018/19. He returned to Leeds on loan but was unable to make his mark at Elland Road, before being sent out to QPR for the second half of the campaign. The 2020/21 season would see him head out on loan to a third Championship side, making 14 appearances in England’s second tier.


All in all, Clarke would make just four appearances for Tottenham’s first team, amassing a total of 95 minutes before making the move to Sunderland on loan in January 2022. Clarke would impress for the Black Cats with 1 goal and 3 assists in 17 appearances, with Sunderland beating Wycombe Wanderers in the promotion playoff final to secure a spot in the EFL Championship. This convinced Sunderland to make the deal permanent, paying an initial fee of £750,000, whilst Tottenham reserved a sell-on clause of 25%.


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Clarke would add goal threat to his game in his first full season at Sunderland, registering 11 goals and assisting 13 as Sunderland finished sixth. The Black Cats came close to securing back-to-back promotions, only for Luton Town to narrowly edge them in the playoff semifinals. Despite the lack of a clear-cut center forward, Sunderland have enjoyed a decent 2023/24 campaign and currently sit 10th in the table, one point away from the playoff positions.


He has once again emerged as a vital leader in attack with 14 goals and 4 assists in the EFL Championship. Whilst the Black Cats have struggled for consistency since Michael Beale replaced Mowbray in December, Clarke has been finding the back of the net on a regular basis, and his performances have already drawn interest from a variety of Premier League sides. If Sunderland are unable to make the jump up to the top-flight, expect the 23-year-old to move up the English pyramid this summer, with Clarke’s contract set to expire in 2026.


Playing Style



Clarke is a well-rounded attacker who can play across the frontline. In the Championship, he’s shown he can go both ways and create with cutbacks. He’s at his best when he receives the ball with space ahead of him to carry the ball and beat defenders. He looks most similar to Jack Grealish when playing and has the same ability to keep the ball close to his feet. He’s strong with a defender on his back and uses his arms well to keep his distance from defenders.


Chance Creation


Clarke’s technique is excellent when passing. He can wrap his foot around the ball and use the outside of his foot to curl passes. He likes to move inside early and play low cross-field passes to isolate his team-mate against a fullback. He’s a strong crosser on his right foot and doesn’t need much space to put a ball into the box. He’s good at spotting gaps in defensive structures which makes him effective from deep.


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His inability to use his weak foot is holding him back currently as it often forces him to play cutbacks on the outside of his right foot instead of using his left which would give him a more favourable angle to pass. It shouldn’t be a long-term problem and it’s an easy coaching fix.




The English forward’s shooting is excellent: he can generate power and height from a standing start with little back lift. He’s also capable of striking a ball hard and low whilst hardly breaking stride. Clarke does struggle to put height on shots using his laces but does well with the side of his foot. He’s very composed and isn’t intimidated by a crowded box.




Clarke’s ability to change pace quickly allows him to draw defenders in with little touches before speeding past them. He has shown a willingness to go both ways when he has the ball on the touchline but he lacks the burst of pace from a standing start to beat Premier League fullbacks on the outside consistently. This will likely lead to him moving closer to goal in the Premier League where his creativity and goalscoring instincts will still be effective. He tends to wait for opponents to commit before dribbling past them which doesn’t usually scale up to the Premier League well.



His body shape isn’t open enough when he receives the ball on the touchline which often sends his first touch backward instead of infield.  His first touch is usually fine but he can struggle to control loose balls. He shifts inside well and combines body feints with his quick feet to create separation. Despite this, he takes a few too many touches when cutting inside and trying to shoot.


Off-the-ball Movement


When he’s running ahead of play he moves wide to create a one-on-one situation with a fullback instead of making his run inwards to try and score a goal. This shows he views himself as a creative player and his lack of movement could limit his ceiling at the top level. 


When his team are attacking down the opposite flank he looks to move toward the centre of the box for a cutback instead of attacking the back post. He makes runs to the back post for deep crosses and isn’t afraid to head the ball. He’s good at curving his run to keep onside.


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Defensive Ability


One area for improvement is his defensive work-rate. He’s happy to track back but has been instructed to stay further forward and impact the game on the counter. He defends at a low intensity and struggles in the press. He doesn’t check his shoulder often in the block which leads to him being out of position. He doesn’t press at good angles either. It’s an area of his game that needs to improve if he wants to play at the elite level.




Whilst he has a contract until 2026, Jack Clarke’s future belongs to a team that finishes between 12th and 7th in the Premier League. His lack of speed will see him struggle at the top level and he would only be a bench player for a top-six team. His career will be defined by how hard he trains. If he works on his weak foot and becomes more attentive out of possession there’s no doubt he’ll be an important player for a team fighting for the Europa League in his prime.


By: @rickyleegriffi2 / Ricky Lee Griffiths

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Malcolm Couzens / Getty Images