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Lee Clark: Newcastle for the Cup; Pep staying with Man City; Tough buying strikers

In an ideal world, Steve Bruce would have wanted another striker for Newcastle United.

But what everyone has to understand is that January is a shocking window to get a striker in, for a few reasons.

One, is any available? Secondly, if they are available, the price is at a premium. And finally, some clubs won't even accept a premium because who wants to sell their in-form striker?

It's easy for people to say go and sign a striker, but if you look at some of the other clubs who were looking for strikers, they didn't get them. Chelsea, Tottenham. Manchester United went for somebody who you never thought they would go for. So it was a difficult market, especially with the failed attempt to sign Olivier Giroud from Chelsea, which wasn't meant to be.

Goalscorers are such a rarity in this game. The ones who score regularly, it is something they are born with.

Yeah you can try and improve on their technique. But it's very difficult to try and coach their natural instincts, those players who don't want to make it into the six-yard box or don't want to be between the posts when crosses are coming in. It's an instinct.

And then over the course of their careers, they look to just improve the different types of finishing, they get more composed, they get more experienced, so that's the key, in terms of the top strikers I've been lucky enough to play with and coach.

During my career, the best has got to be Alan Shearer, doesn't it? But there are many on my list.

There's Les Ferdinand, Tino Asprilla, Peter Beardsley, Andy Cole, Kevin Phillips, Louis Saha, Jordan Rhodes, who I coached at Huddersfield.

Watching these guys in training, you realise how ruthless they are. When they do finishing drills, the top strikers, they finish them in training the way they would in a match.

And that's the biggest thing, they don't practice what they don't do on a Saturday. They don't try and do the extravagant, they just ruthlessly hit the back of the net each time.

It's because they get the same buzz and enjoyment on the training ground as they do in a match on a Saturday. That's what makes them ruthless and the commodities that they are.


I WAS PLAYING THE LAST TIME THEY WENT THROUGH!

I'm delighted Newcastle have made it through to the FA Cup fifth-round.

I was doing my prep work before the initial first-game against Oxford United, and I was shocked to find out that I played in the last team that got beyond the fourth-round. I've only been retired since 2006! That was a big shock for me.

But to be fair to Steve, he said when he first came through the door that he was going to take the cup competitions seriously, and his selections have proved that. They've found it tough going against both Rochdale and Oxford.

The win over Oxford was a ding-dong cup-tie, some terrific goals in the game. Now they go to West Bromwich Albion, and Slaven Bilic has got more than one eye on getting promotion.

I don't think the FA Cup is a massive priority for them. I think getting back to the Premier League is the key. So even though it is an away match and you prefer to play at home, I think it is a great opportunity for Newcastle to progress again and that would be brilliant.

There's this debate on Tyneside at the moment about if the football is nice to watch. To be brutally honest, the football over the last five or six years hasn't been good to watch anyway.

It's about picking up points and staying in the Premier League, hopefully finishing as high as possible, and potentially winning a couple of more games in the cup and who knows?

The priority is to not get relegated. They're on 31 points at the moment. And I think if someone said you'd be on 31 points by February, people would've accepted that.

The big debate is the quality of football and the amount of possession they don't have. I think Steve has come out and said that he just doesn't have the personnel to come out and play in a different way.

And the way the club has been set up over the last three or four seasons, the players that have been brought in have played in a certain way, with the three central defenders and hitting teams on the break with speed at the top end of the pitch.

But getting back to the cup situation, it's a fantastic opportunity for the group, who can hopefully get one or two players back, especially Andy Carroll, who could give us options up front because at the moment there is no room for changing personnel up there.


LONGSTAFF

It's absolutely crucial the club tie down Matty Longstaff to a new contract.

The club have been crying out for local lads who have come through from the academy, and there is now a manager in place who is prepared to play the youngsters, even above the senior players, and not wait for his hand to be forced through injuries or suspensions.

The academy is appreciative of that and the young players can see that there will be opportunities given. And the two boys, Sean as well, have come in and are two completely different types of players, but have done terrifically well in their own right.

And I think it is massive for the club to keep them on board, get them settled and make them part of the future, because good young players are hard to come by, and especially local players.


JANUARY BECOMING MORE DIFFICULT

As I touched on before, the January transfer market is becoming more difficult, but not only for strikers, it's across the entire Premier League.

Deadline day used to be a scramble, but as you saw last week, that just isn't happening anymore.

That's because those mid-level clubs no longer need the money from the supposed 'big-six'. The selling clubs have so much power now they no longer need the finances to sell their best players, unless there is a ridiculous premium on them.

And the buying clubs have now stopped doing those crazy deals which sees them pay well over the cost-price. They're being far more sensible and refusing to pay over the odds.

What this is also doing is making the competition more even, as the likes of Sheffield United and Wolves can remain competitive at the top end of the table because they aren't threatened with losing their top players.


MAN CITY AND PEP

The upcoming Champions League tie against Real Madrid is huge for Pep Guardiola and Man City.

Pep will want to make sure it's an opportunity for them to win it. I think if he was to take the Champions League to the Etihad it would be a fantastic achievement in his career, it would be the icing on the cake really.

He's been unbelievable so far for that football club. All that's happened this year is coming up against a phenomenal team in Liverpool, who are just getting stronger and stronger, and that's credit to Jurgen Klopp and his players.

But I think Pep will be looking to the Champions League as the one that he can try and win. I think if you offered him that over the Premier League this season, I'm certain he would've accepted that, and all the Manchester City fans would've accepted that at the start of the season as well.

Will he leave Manchester City this summer? Not a chance. He's been absolutely superb since coming to England. I think he's here for a long time, no matter what happens in the Champions League, win or lose. I think he is definitely enjoying the challenge of English football.


FULHAM

Fulham have been doing fantastically well at the moment and I've been really impressed watching them.

I love the way Scott Parker has got them all fighting for each other and pushing each other, which is something they really lacked last season.

There is that pressure of getting the club back into the Premier League as soon as possible and I think Scott's doing a terrific job.

I hope he can get them over the line and get them promoted because they're a club that are very close to me and I want to see them competing at the highest level again.

Lee Clark
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Lee Clark

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