Clark’s loyalty no surprise to chairman Hoyle

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN chairman Dean Hoyle has revealed he always believed Lee Clark would stay loyal to the club despite interest from Leicester City.

The 38-year-old yesterday delighted Town fans by committing his future to the League One club amid feverish speculation that he was about to be unveiled as Sven Goran Eriksson’s successor.

Clark had first been linked with the vacancy at the King Power Stadium last weekend with reports in the national media suggesting the Foxes wanted to appoint him in tandem with Kevin Keegan in a director of football role.

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Such was the confidence in the East Midlands that Clark was destined for Leicester that by late morning some bookmakers had stopped taking bets on the Town manager, who elsewhere was priced as low as 1-5.

Clark, however, then released a statement reaffirming his commitment to Huddersfield – a move that has left Roy Keane as the new favourite with Hull City’s Nigel Pearson also strongly fancied in the betting, though the Tigers’ chief did make it plain at his weekly press briefing yesterday that he considers the speculation about a possible return to Leicester an irritation.

On Clark’s decision to stay at the Galpharm Stadium, Town chairman Hoyle last night told the Yorkshire Post: “Of course, it is flattering that Lee should get linked with clubs from a higher division – just as it is when it happens to our players.

“The reality, though, is that Lee has been in this job for nearly three years and there is still plenty of work to do. Lee is relishing the task.

“We have got better year after year since he joined the club and I think Lee realises we are on the verge of something special.”

Clark’s decision to remain loyal to Town comes ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Walsall, when a win or draw will see the West Yorkshire club equal Nottingham Forest’s 42-game unbeaten record in the Football League.

Hoyle added: “The target this season is promotion, that is our focus rather than beating any records. Though, of course, if we pick up a few records along the way then that would be great.

“The main thing is getting the three points (tomorrow) and I would expect it will be a great atmosphere as the fans respond to Lee’s decision.

“In this day and age, it is rare to see a manager nail his colours to the mast like Lee has with Huddersfield Town and I am certain all our supporters appreciate that.

“As a club, we are delighted, though to be honest I always believed Lee’s loyalty was with us. He is a good man, and has had great backing – not just from me but from the fans as well. I know that counts for a lot to a man like Lee.”

Asked if the speculation had been a distraction for Clark or anyone else at the club, Hoyle added: “It has not been an issue for us, or at least it wasn’t until the newspaper reports appeared (yesterday) suggesting Lee had accepted the Leicester job.

“Until then, Lee had just quietly got on with his job. His thinking was that he didn’t want to give the speculation any credence by commenting. But after those reports appeared, Lee phoned me up and said, ‘I want to stamp this out’. He felt the fans deserved to know the truth.”

Clark’s decision to stay at the Galpharm has done little to dampen down the speculation surrounding who will succeed Eriksson.

Hull manager Pearson, who left Leicester for the KC Stadium in June last year, is among those being strongly tipped to fill the vacancy.

He said: “My odds have come down, have they? The situation is as it was. Look, we are trying to build up for a game and I have no control over what happens anywhere else. I am not interested in talking about anything outside of us. I just find it a bit irritating, to be honest.”

When asked if there had been any contact with Leicester, Pearson replied: “Not as far as I am concerned.”

Back in Huddersfield, Clark’s focus is on beating Walsall to maintain the Terriers’ push for automatic promotion.

The Town manager is yet to speak to the media due to his own weekly press briefing not taking place until today but, in a statement released through the club, he said: “On a personal level it is satisfying to be linked to jobs at clubs in a higher division, but that is all I take from these links.

“Players get linked to other clubs when they are doing well and you have to take it as a compliment in that sense.

“As I have also said, I believe these rumours are a compliment to Huddersfield Town, too, and we should take it as a positive that our success is catching the attention of people in the game outside of our area.

“However, I want to reiterate that I am 100 per cent committed to the owner, the fans and the players at Huddersfield Town and I am totally focused on continuing this magnificent start to the season and getting this club promoted.

“I want to put an end to this speculation – I am not interested in the Leicester vacancy. All I am interested in is moving forward with the job at hand at Huddersfield Town.”