Kenny Jackett believes returned Wolves signing Leon Clarke is a player who has improved through age and experience – comparing him to the impact of strikers like Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt.
Clarke, who previously spent over a decade at Wolves having joined the Academy at the age of eight, is back at Molineux at the age of 28 with a strong motivation to prove himself all over again.
Jackett says: “Leon is a player who’s time is now and there have been plenty of big centre forwards of his type because he has good touch and good vision in the build-up for your team and in the build-up for moves.
“He can bring people into play and can play with his back to goal and he can link the play as well as having a very good goalscoring record at the moment.
“He’s also in a good place in terms of his form in this division which is very appealing for us.
“There have been many big centre forwards who come into their own in their late 20s.
“I had one at Millwall in Steve Morison who was 26 when we signed him and he went on into the Premier League, as did Grant Holt, and Rickie Lambert made his England debut past 30-years-old.
“People like that understand the game more and see the pictures clearer.
“They also know their own body and preparation very well and they can pull all that together and have their best years in their late 20s.
“I see Leon in that category and I also think he’s deceptively quick and has good mobility and running ability and pace about him.
“He is a centre forward who can come short and link the play; he’s not similar to Nouha who looks for the ball over the top and into the box, which does make you have to go from back to front quickly.
“He’s very comfortable in the build-up and being part of that and that’s part of the appeal.
“He has the ability to get into the box and to score, but I also see someone who’s a very good footballer and will continue whichever combination of players or formation I play, he can continue to keep us playing with the ball on the floor and playing good football.
“His strength is really with his back to goal bringing people into play and build constructive moves that get you up the pitch and into the opposition’s box regularly but with quality.”
Clarke had some ups and downs with Wolves’ supporters during his previous stint as a much younger player, which he himself has put down to “immaturity” at the time.
And Jackett is confident fans will judge his second spell on how he performs on the pitch.
“As with any player, fans will react on what they see and how he plays,” the Head Coach added.
“It’s the same with Leon. He’s been here before but he was only 21-years-old when he left.
“He was very hungry to come back and delighted to have the chance to come back to a big club and one where he started.
“It’s a big opportunity for him and the supporters will react off his performances as they will with any player.
“It will be very interesting for us now and the supporters to see the standard of the player that comes back, as opposed to the young boy who left.
“I think he’s an experienced player, he’s in his prime and at his peak now, certainly in terms of getting goals.
“He’s always been able to get goals and at this level – he’s been a consistent scorer at this level which has been proved this season because he’s still the top scorer in League One.
“I also think there’s a touch and an awareness about him that I like and will fit in with us.
“So in terms of our supporters, I’m sure they will be very interested to see him play and see how he fits into the team and will respond.
“People will be very keen to see how he fits in, what he does and then supporters will respond off performances, as they do off all of us.”
Mixed reaction to him so far from fans – PR battle for him to win:
“I accept he’s a player who’s been here before, he was 18-years-old and I understand exactly where people are coming from.
“I can also say that element was considered in the business that we did.
“But also we have to work hard to take the club forward and continually try to improve and people will maybe hold theur judgement until they see him play.
“When they see him play, they will see a very confident, very mature player who has good technical ability and can fit in and play and pass the ball like we’re doing at present and in the future.
“He’s also got an ability to score goals which can never be underestimated.
“I do see where the fans are coming from and I do understand the questions but people will react off what they see and I’m very confident they will see a good player.
“The big thing I got from talking to him was that he’d love the opportunity to come back.
“He wanted the chance to play for Wolves again and he’s a Wolverhampton lad, so he’s been around this area for a long time.
“He’s very hungry for another chance here which impressed me and also how he feels he’s ready now and he’s at his peak.
“He knows his body, he knows the division, he’s confident he can score goals and he’s confident he can fit in.”