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Leon Can Flourish Says Kenny

PUBLISHED

11:13 25th April 2014

Head Coach backs striker to be successful.

Leon Clarke has been backed to still make a big success of his second spell at Wolves as he prepares for the trip to face his last club Coventry tomorrow.

The striker is having to be patient in waiting for extended first-team opportunities with the newly-crowned Sky Bet League One champions, for whom the only goal to date of his second stint came away to another of his former clubs, Swindon, in March.

But, as he awaits a possible thorny reception from Sky Blues fans at Sixfields Stadium, he is being seen by Wolves head coach Kenny Jackett as a player who can flourish in next season's Championship and beyond.

"Leon is an experienced centre-forward and will take in his stride anything that comes his way this weekend," Kenny said.

"His focus will be on Wolves. When he came here, he played a few games and looked very good, then got injured as we were settling on a 4-3-3 formation which has left me with a choice of him or Nouha Dicko.

"When he came back, I didn't want to deviate from what has been a very successful system, so he has not had that many minutes on the pitch.

"But there is more to come because you need a big centre-forward, whether that's starting or from the bench. I am pleased we have different types in that position and he complements the others.

"It's one position where you can't afford to be caught short. It's probably an area where you need one player too many."

Dicko and Bakary Sako are among those who have been in outstanding scoring form on the run-in and are among four Wolves players with double-figure goal hauls in 2013-14.

Clarke has therefore started only four games since being bought from Coventry, although he has made around twice that many appearances as a substitute. 

"Leon is a victim of this system developing in the time he was out," Kenny said. "I couldn't start ripping it apart and it has been proved right because we have continued winning games.

"But he is capable of playing in the Championship and he is a good option for us. He's 29 and I feel a lot of big centre-forwards come into their own from about the age of 30, like Rickie Lambert, Grant Holt and Steve Morison, who I worked with at Millwall. We took him from non-League at 26 and sold him to the Premier League for £3m.

"They have a calmness at that stage in their career that they don't have at 21, so I feel Leon's next few years will be his best."

Looking ahead a few months, the Molineux head coach is in no way daunted by the fact many of his side are unproven and even untested at Championship level.

In fact he welcomes the fact that so many of his players are going up needing to make a statement.

"We’re coming from below with a high number of players who haven’t played at that level, which is different from before," he added.

“But I like it that way. It’s good because it will breed a hunger and a desire to prove themselves. The two sides who are going up this season (Leicester and Burnley) have done it in different ways.

“The beauty of the Championship is that three quarters of the clubs have been in the Premier League and that’s where they expect to be. That makes it a good league and it’s an exciting time for Wolves to be in it.

"I'm looking forward to seeing our group play in the Championship. It’s a time to try to build on this season if we can. I’ve been very pleased with this season but we want it to be a base, a stepping stone – the start of something very good at the club.

“If possible, we want to write our own bit of history in the tradition of a great club, so it’s exciting times for Wolves going into the Championship."

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