Could Things Get Much Worse As Clarke Walks?

Well, I did say only yesterday I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Clarke fancied a new challenge alongside his old mate Gianfranco Zola. And as if Chelsea hadn’t suffered enough disasters lately, tonight brings the news that Chelsea’s seemingly ever present has handed in his notice.

What else can I say except the club’s a bloody disaster area at the minute!

From the Times:

Steve Clarke resigned as Chelsea’s assistant first-team coach yesterday evening to pave the way for a move to West Ham United, where he will work in a similar capacity under Gianfranco Zola, the new manager. The former Scotland defender has agreed the terms of a three-year contract at Upton Park and his appointment will be announced in the next few days, once the club have agreed a compensation package with Chelsea.

Clarke’s decision to end more than 20 years with Chelsea came as a shock to the club, who had tried to keep him. After a series of meetings with Peter Kenyon, the chief executive, failed to bring a resolution, Clarke had little option but to leave. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Chelsea manager, also attempted to persuade Clarke to stay, arguing that the Scot owed him a debt of loyalty after he allowed him to stay on this summer and claiming that his departure so close to the start of the season would reflect badly on the club. But after four years as No2 at Stamford Bridge, Clarke’s mind was made up.

Clarke has been quietly seeking a way out since JosĂ© Mourinho left the club a year ago. He was persuaded to stay after being awarded a new three-year contract in the light of the Portuguese’s departure. He did not enjoy a close relationship with Avram Grant, Mourinho’s successor, although he was given wide-ranging responsibilities to take training by the Israeli, which shored up his position.

It is understood that Clarke has been effectively sidelined since Scolari was appointed in the summer, with the Brazilian relying almost entirely on Darlan Schneider, his other assistant, whom he brought with him

from Portugal. Whereas Clarke was close to Mourinho and all his assistants, it is understood that he has not been invited into Scolari’s inner sanctum in the same way. Although joining West Ham will be seen as a backward step in some quarters, Clarke views the opportunity to take charge of the coaching at a Barclays Premier League club as too good to refuse, as well as relishing the opportunity of linking up again with Zola, with whom he played for two years at Chelsea.

Clarke’s departure is a setback to Chelsea because he was very popular in the dressing-room, particularly with the English core of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole. The club have no imminent plans to replace him.

While many West Ham fans will oppose the appointment of an individual with such close ties to their rivals, it will also go down badly with Chelsea supporters because Clarke was voted into their team of the century three years ago and was the last surviving link with the pre-Roman Abramovich era. The 45-year-old made 421 appearances for the club between 1987 and 1998, before returning as youth-team coach five years later.

Gutted.

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