Bury's new head coach wants to fufil club's Championship dream

NEW SURROUNDINGS: Jon Clarke at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club at his first press conference    Picture: Russell Claydon
NEW SURROUNDINGS: Jon Clarke at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club at his first press conference Picture: Russell Claydon
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Jon Clarke has said Bury St Edmunds' ambition of reaching the Championship one day is something that really appealed to him.

The former Northampton Saints, Worcester Warriors and Yorkshire Carneige player addressed the press for the first time at The GK IPA Haberden ahead of watching the squad train yesterday evening (April 27).

After accepting his first head coach role in senior rugby, having had a spell in the role at Sheffield Hallam University before joining Championship side Rotherham Titans, he said: "It is a massive opportunity. The club has ambition; it wants to get to the Championship.

"Obviously I don't live in a dream world that I will come in and get promoted two years in a row.

"It is going to be hard work. But part of that ambition is why I feel it is right for me to come here.

"The idea is to set it in motion to get us going towards that.

"Going from backs coach at Rotherham to head coach here feels right. And the opportunity just feels massive."

How came about:

"In fairness I was talking to a friend, Glyn Hughes, who was here for a short time (having now gone over to Hong Kong for a job opportunity).

"I was having a talk with him and he mentioned the current coach was moving on and said could you ask and find out for me, and it literally came from that.

"I came down a few days later and spoke to Terry Sands and went from there.

"It has been really fast. It has only been a week ago."

With Bury's performance director Terry Sands having previously managed England's second XV, known as England Saxons, and Clarke, still only 33, having played for them, he explained it was not a past connection which has brought them to work together.

"I had never met him before," he said. "I have kept away from the sevens to save the knees!

"It came from that. It was quite amazing how fast it came through, just from talking to a mate."

Having got a taste of being a head coach previously, before witnessing the inner-workings of a Championship side as a backs coach, Clarke said he was itching to have the top job at a National League club.

"I loved it there (at Hallam). You get the control and to bring out your own ideas for a team philosophy.

"I really enjoyed it and the lads were outstanding at Hallam.

"It did feel right, and I suppose if I want to be a head coach there is no point waiting for something in the Championship to come along, you have got to take opportunities.

"Like I say, the club wants to go places and it just felt right.

"You come down here and it is a lovely place and a lovely club.

"It has good facilities and they keep improving the facilities. That is the ambition: they want to keep moving this club in the right direction and that helps me and people to come to the club."

Clarke, who has watched videos of Bury's recent games, met the players for the first time last night but will not be travelling with them to their last game of the National League Two South season at Clifton, outside Bristol, so it will not distract from Gavin Hogg's management, in what is his final game before going to take charge of Old Albanians in National One.

The new Bury head coach will officially take over for the start of pre-season and has been in dialogue with Hogg several times about his assessment of the current squad.

Clarke played as a utility back and his career saw him play for England at Under-19 and Under-20 levels as well as for the Saxons.

Club-wise, he made 165 first-team appearances for Premiership giants Northampton Saints from centre, full-back or wing and scored 32 tries.

His CV at the Franklin Gardens club, in a nine-year spell, includes reached the 2011 Heineken European Cup final, winning the 2010 LV= Anglo-Welsh Cup and the previous year the European Rugby Challenge Cup.