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Wemb-lee beckons for Lee Clark

last updated Thursday 06th January 2000, 10:46 PM
Lee Clark's recent Wembley memories are pretty painful but, as he gets back on the FA Cup trail, he yearns for one more visit to the Twin Towers before they are pulled down. The Fulham midfielder has suffered the agony of a play-off defeat and semi-final heartache with Sunderland and seen his beloved Newcastle beaten twice in successive FA Cup finals.

It was Newcastle's cup final defeat to Manchester United, in May, which sparked Clark's move to Craven Cottage, where he will try to plot the downfall of Wimbledon in Saturday's FA Cup fourth round. The Geordie incensed the Wearsiders by watching last season's final wearing a Newcastle T-shirt emblazoned with an anti-Sunderland logo. He admits it hastened his departure from the Stadium of Light but said a move had been on the cards anyway.

Clark said: "That incident made it inevitable. I could never have stayed there after that. But as soon as we got promoted and won the league, my thoughts were on moving away for reasons I'd rather not disclose. "I've no regrets about leaving Sunderland. They were a great set of lads and the manager was superb but I wanted to leave the club." Clark, 27, chose to join former Sunderland and Newcastle team-mate Paul Bracewell at Fulham as the ambitious London club charted a course for the top flight.

The Cottagers are still in both cup competitions and lurking around the Division One play-off zone and could satisfy Clark's Wembley desire. Fulham, who have claimed a host of Premiership scalps during their resurgence, take on Wimbledon in the FA Cup fourth round days before a trip to Leicester in the Worthington Cup quarter-final. It is a busy time for Bracewell and his team but Clark is not complaining. He helped Sunderland ride the crest of a wave back to the Premiership and wants to see his new club do the same.

Clark said: "If you want to be successful, you want big games coming at you all the time. It's the way to be. Rather than sitting in January with nothing to play for, sitting in mid-table and out of all cup competitions. We've got a lot to play for." Clark and Sunderland went out of the Worthington Cup, last year, in a semi-final against Leicester, but Clark is suspended from Fulham's trip to Filbert Street next week. He would love the chance of a return to Wembley where he played during a glittering schoolboy and youth career but where the memories of his last visit are less fond and they still linger on.

Clark said: "I played for Sunderland when we lost in the play-off against Charlton in 1998. It was one of the worst feelings I've ever felt as a footballer. It was horrendous. "It was one of the most exciting games. It was 4-4 and then penalties but the way it happened was the worst thing. "I came off with the score at 4-3 with a calf injury. I thought we had it wrapped up but I should have known better in that game. "The Charlton lads must have felt unbelievable to win there because the atmosphere was something else. If we can't finish in the top two and win automatic promotion, I'll settle for winning it there."

Source Sporting Life by Matt Barlow

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