As the Yorkshire Post and the representatives of another couple of media organisations filed into Lee Clark’s office at the Galpharm Stadium yesterday morning, the Huddersfield Town manager was waiting with his arms folded and clearly not in a happy mood.
“What rubbish have you come to ask me this week?” was Clark’s opening gambit, delivered with a stony face.
Then, without pausing for breath, he left those of us present in no doubt as to his displeasure about the events of Tuesday night when a section of the 600 or so Terriers fans had chanted ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ at the Town manager. And, specifically, the role he believes the local media had played in causing the supporter unrest.
“I don’t deserve that,” said the 38-year-old, whose team set a new club record of 28 unbeaten league games with Tuesday’s goalless draw at Victoria Park.
“I work my tail off for this club and try to do everything I can. I try to deliver a team that is worthy of fantastic supporters.
“That reaction does not help my players at all. I am big enough to take it but, once I got home and thought about it in the cold light of day, I don’t deserve that.
“The reaction of the fans on Tuesday night was bordering on disgraceful after what I have done.
“Maybe if we go another 28 games (unbeaten) then I might get the recognition that I feel sometimes I don’t get.”
The catalyst for the fans venting their frustrating at Hartlepool was the 70th minute substitution of striker Lee Novak. That Clark brought on a midfielder, Donal McDermott, in Novak’s place did not go down well with the travelling support, mainly because it meant Town abandoning the two-man attack that had been adopted when Jordan Rhodes had been brought off the bench 16 minutes earlier to play alongside Novak.
A few days on, Clark remains adamant that the switch was the right one as it ensured Huddersfield stemmed the wave of Hartlepool attacks after a period of home dominance. And in case anyone at yesterday’s press conference wanted to contradict that thinking, the Terriers chief had printed out the game’s statistics to underline his point.
“When we went two up top, we were getting absolutely pummelled,” said Clark while pointing to the three sheets of paper on his desk.
“I have the stats here. They had nine shots in the whole game and five of them were in that 20-minute period (when Rhodes and Novak were together up front).
“It was also the only time their possession was superior to ours, while penalty area entries were four times what we managed.
“Everything during that period when I tried to go with two up front was turned on its head.
“I had to do something about it, because if you just sit there and don’t act then you lose the game.
“The fans are entitled to their opinion. But if any of them wants to come in this office and sit with me to watch the DVD, then I am here 14 hours a day.
“I have lots of time to sit with every one of them if they want. Whether they accept that as being right, I don’t know.”
Town’s draw at Hartlepool means they are still to be beaten in a league game in 2011, the club’s only reverses having come in the FA Cup fourth round at Arsenal, the Johnstone’s Paint Northern Area final first leg against Carlisle United and last May’s League One play-off final versus Peterborough United.
Clark added: “Tuesday hasn’t affected the players in training. We all love working together and we have a great relationship.
“We have magnificent fans but if that is going to be a reaction then... I don’t understand what game they are watching.”
As upset as Clark clearly still is to have had supporters questioning his stewardship of the team at Hartlepool, it seems the real guilty party in his eyes is the press.
Asked if he is expecting a more positive response from the terraces today when Colchester United come to the Galpharm Stadium, Clark thundered: “Well it depends on how you relay this interview. It starts from you. This is where all this nonsense comes from.
“You are all obsessed with systems, you are obsessed with us having to be six or seven points clear at this stage of the season.
“You don’t look at the bigger picture and, quite frankly, you don’t have a clue about football.”
The draw at Hartlepool United means Town are still waiting to claim their first win of the League One season.
John Ward’s Colchester United will be hoping to extend that record today when visiting West Yorkshire.
Clark, who has allowed defender Nathan Clarke to join Oldham Athletic on loan until January, said: “It will be very hard but we will win. Without doubt. They are a very good side with an outstanding manager who I have a lot of respect for. I worked with him at England Under-21s level.
“They also have some very good players but I have seen the belief in my players and how good they are. I am confident we will win the game.
“I was delighted with the defensive display (at Hartlepool) and I thought the whole team was excellent without the ball.
“Hartlepool on a Tuesday night is not an easy place to go, especially with that wind whipping up off the North Sea.
“I just wanted us to be better with the ball and show more confidence. The lads have been bright in training since then and I am very confident going into Colchester.”
A routine win after a pre-match press conference that was anything but will, therefore, do very nicely.