Ex-Hearts boss Sandy Clark knows secret of success in Dumfries

Former Hearts manager Sandy Clark believes a “mutual understanding of football” has helped him and Allan Johnston guide Queen of the South to 
a 14-point lead in the Second Division.

Assistant coach Clark has been impressed by the approach taken by Queens boss Johnston, who is still relatively inexperienced in the world of football management.

The Palmerston Park job is the 39-year-old’s first as a manager, but Clark already reckons that the future is bright for the former Hearts, Kilmarnock and Bolton winger.

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He said: “Allan is very much a football person and he always had a good awareness of how the game should be played.

“He has managed to take those kinds of qualities into management as well.

“He picks things up really quickly, in terms of the way that the game is developing, and although he is relatively inexperienced as far as coaching goes, he has proved himself to be very capable, very quickly.

“He is doing exceptionally well.”

Clark admits that the call from Johnston to be his No. 2 at Palmerston came somewhat out of the blue, although 
the pair had previously worked together at Tynecastle.

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Despite being taken by surprise, Clark says that he jumped at the chance to resurrect his relationship with Johnston, who is 17 years his junior.

He continued: “I worked with Allan when he was just a young lad.

“Obviously people’s 
careers move on and 
Allan was very successful in his, but we didn’t keep in regular contact as such, although we did meet at various events and dinners.

“There is quite a big age gap there, but there is a mutual understanding of football there. If you have got the same kind of beliefs as we have, then it can work.”

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With the SPL winter break running until Saturday week, Clark reckons there will be extra eyes on his side on Saturday for their game against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill and he is keen that the players live up to their pre-match billing. He added: “Obviously it’s nice for the players to get a wee bit more publicity, but we will just keep doing the same things in the same way and hopefully get the same kind of results regardless of whether the SPL is in action or not.

“The guys know that they have got to be working hard and doing well to get more attention and I would hope that they’ll be able to keep that going over the next couple of weeks.”

Clark believes that their success so far has been down to nothing more than sheer hard work and determination from the Queens management team and playing staff.

He can’t fault the players’ attitude and continued: “From the start of the season it has been exciting and very enjoyable but I think that the games over the Christmas period really summed up the kind of time that we’ve been having. “We got some good results in there and the players and myself and Allan are really enjoying it at the moment.

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“We have had a lot of games and the players have sacrificed quite a bit of their time with the families to come in and train or play – they were in on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, but hopefully they would all agree that it was worthwhile when you look at some of the scorelines and performances that we managed to get over that period of time.”

Clark’s 21-year-old son Nicky, pictured left, has been on fire for The Doonhamers in recent months and has bagged an impressive 21 goals for his side so far this season, including a double in the 5-1 win over Arbroath last weekend.

That’s a remarkable strike rate, no matter what league you’re playing in, and Clark is hoping to see even more from his son before the campaign is out.

“He is doing great,” proud dad Clark added.

“He is only 21 and he is still learning what the game is all about but he has had a chance this year to play in a team that are going well. I think that he has taken full advantage of that.”

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Clark still keeps and eye on the goings on at Tynecastle and admits that he has felt pangs of sympathy for Hearts supporters over the last few years.

They’ve been put through the wringer with the various financial crises that the club has gone through but he reckons that the fan base can help pull them through.

“I was at Hearts for ten years and I really enjoyed my time there as a player and a coach.

“I grew up in Coatbridge as an Airdrie fan but I make no secret of the fact that I have a very soft spot for Hearts and that I love going back to Tynecastle even to this day.

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“I feel for the fans the way that things have been over the past few years. The biggest asset that the club has got is their fans, there is no doubt about it.

“They have stuck with the club through thick and thin and that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest because they were always very passionate. I witnessed it for myself, so I know how much the club means to them.”