Lee Clark slumps forward in his chair re-enacting Kevin Keegan's flop over the advertising boards during Newcastle's title-ruining 4-3 defeat at Anfield.

He was sitting just behind his boss Kevin Keegan on the bench in April 1996, and admits: “That was the moment we had in our heads: This is slipping away. Aaagh. It's crashing down around you.

“We all felt the same. Absolutely devastated. That game swung back and forward. Cruel. It summed up the manager. He never hid his emotions. That's what we loved about him.

“It was like the seats had all collapsed in the dugout.”

A Newcastle United with very different ambitions – avoid relegation, don't concede too many - arrive at Anfield and Clark reckons a new generation of fans will never experience the magic of that title challenge.

Clark went from being schoolboy prodigy to playing 200 games for his hometown club in the best years of their modern history.

Now he's a fan again, bossing Blyth Spartans, hoping to get back into the league management again, and convinced that friend Steve Bruce can earn some understanding for taking the Toon hot-seat.

It is a different era from 1996, Anfield, the Keegan “Love it” rant, and blowing a 12 point lead.

“We should have won the Premier League in '96,” he says. “Back then, people couldn't wait for the match. They'd get to town four/five hours before kick off. The buzz was electric. You could feel the excitement.

“Now there is a feeling of: here we go again. What'll happen. Trepidation. In the '90s there'd only be singing, a buzz. You couldn't wait for it to start, and the players were the same.”

Reality is biting at Newcastle. Attendances have fallen, fans are fed up and Clark cuts from Keegan, and the 4-3 clips that will be played this week, to the stark reality.

He says: “I personally don't think it will ever be like that again. Challenging the elite? No.

“Man City, Liverpool are getting stronger at every levels of their clubs. They'll keep dominating.

Clark played more than 200 times for his boyhood club

“Is that depressing? It is worrying to think Newcastle, we, have gone so far away from them that we might ever catch them up again.

“You are still left hoping for one of those football miracles. Who'd have though Man City would get bought and be in this position now. Or that Leicester would win a title. There will just be hope now. Every generation asking: A trophy. Will we see it?”

Clark is a confidant of Bruce, who's family cooked up Sunday lunches to help him through his wide ranging managerial career including Huddersfield , Birmingham, Blackpool, Kilmarnock, Bury and now the Spartans.

As a Toon fan Clark disagrees with “the majority of what the current owner has done” but reckons Bruce simply had to give the job a go.

“Me and Steve love to reminisce. We always talked about Newcastle. Put anyone of the 50,000 in that stadium in Steve's position: they would take the job! The club you support, club you love, you're a football manager, it's your dream job... would you say no?

“Some says he hasn't got the best Premier League stats? Who outside the top six has? Pep Guardiola and Klopp were not on their radar this summer!”

Kevin Keegan slumped over the advertising boards at Anfield

Alan Shearer advised Bruce to turn Mike Ashley's offer down but Clark disagrees. “He couldn't. It doesn't matter who the owner is. Or that he is succeeding one of the most popular managers we have ever had, Rafa Benitez.

“Are there issues how the club has been run over the last ten years? Of course. It could have been more competitive. For the league, probably not. For the top ten, Europe, I think so. That's the issue. Steve is caught in the cross fire. A perfect storm.

“Even Kevin and Bobby were maybe not as popular as Rafa. Some of Rafa's games were not great on the eye. Rafa set up the team, he had a fantastic relationship with the supporters. That makes it difficult for the next boss. You are not Rafa.”

Clark says he and Bruce and the fans see eye to eye on one wish. “I just want my club to do well, to go to Wembley in the FA Cup, be in the top half and not worrying over Christmas in the bottom five. I get why people are frustrated.”

Lee Clark on his management career...

Huddersfield – a 43 game unbeaten run ahead of Brian Clough

Brian Clough had 42 and I had 43! That doesn't sound too bad alongside him, an icon. I look back on it, and it keeps my belief in myself going.

It happened because of confidence and doing the right things every day. You can see the players believing. It's the opposite of a losing run! Breaking the cycle is hard. The players achieved it, a great group of players. I have always tried to replicate that dressing room. Ian Bennett, Alan Lee, Damien Johnson, Tommy Miller plus good youngsters. Make the players feel at ease an

It is poignant because Gary Speed would be 50 this weekend, and the run ended on the Monday after we all got the news he died on the Sunday. We played live on TV at Charlton. I got the news on the team bus and it knocked us for six and my approach to the game was flawed. Fantasic player even better bloke.

Clark had a successful spell at Huddersfield

Birmingham – celebrating with Peaky Blinders

A couple of weeks before the season started Carson Yeung the owner got put under house arrest and all his assets frozen. The financial landscape changed.

The wage bill had to be reduced from £25m to £6m in three transfer windows. To keep the club in the Championship was tough. The fans still had expectations and were brilliant supporting their team. We had to sell Jack Butland and Nathan Redmond the crown jewels. I also took Demarai Gray, at 16, out of the youth team and gave him his chance. He wanted to get experience, a special talent, and stayed getting nearly 200 games.

Fans remember that last game escape. We were 2-0 down 13mins to go. We got an equaliser in the 96 minute. The 5,000 fans were all dressed as Peaky Blinders fancy dress because the bloke who wrote it was a City fan. I ran into the fans that day. It was an extraordinary finish. People say I must have celebrated that night, but I went for a meal and had to go home. I was emotionally and physically drained. Before the agme I texted people, and my family, saying thanks for their support. I knew this game could define what would happen to Birmingham in years to come. League One would have been horrendous. They might not have recovered. It was relief to keep them up, that was the exhaustion. Phew.

We tried to rebuild, the budget was reduced again, started well but got into a rut. Some good managers have struggled since. Harry Redknapp, Zola, Garry Monk did well after the points reduction. They aways tried to behave like a Premier League club and treated me well.

Blackpool – sweeping the floors on a Monday

I would get the brushes out and sweep up after the weekend. We couldn't get a cleaning company in to do it. Malcolm Crosby my chief scout used to come in on a daily basis, and I couldn't find him one day. He was in the laundry washing the kits. Our pitch was terrible and we got reported to the FA every game for the standard. I had to apologise to visiting managers who were furious with the state of the pitch. Jimmy Armfield would sit with me and have cups and tea every week and say the training ground was the same as the 60s.

I went in thinking I would change it. Keep them up like Birmingham, great on my CV. But I didn't realise how deep rooted the problems were. Karl Oyston appointed me and the fans thought I was a big friend of his, not just someone wanting to become their manager. A smaller scale version of Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley. The owner wouldn't pay agents so we were always last choice destination.

My last game was abandoned. Fans on the pitch protesting, and the ref saying it was off. I resigned the next day. Couldn't work in that environment. There was no enjoyment and my wife and kids didn't want to come. It hurt me. Took a while to get back in.

I'm glad they are a vibrant club now under new owners. It could take off.

Kilmarnock – Valentine's Day revival

We were bottom of the table when I arrived, and we got to sixth. I lived next to the golf course at Troon. I joined on Valentine's Day and left on it a year later. My wife probably wasn't too happy. The set up had an element of old school. Scottish football. Unless I was getting a club promoted to the Premier League how was I going to be a manager in stadiums like Celtic Park, 62,000, Ibrox 52,000, Aberdeen 18,000. Hearts. Dundee United, Hibs. I enjoyed all those grounds and it was a great year and I should have stayed and seen where we could get to.

Bury – sack on my Birthday

I was relived of my duties on my birthday. I'd arrived in the February with the team second bottom. We won three on the bounce and we stayed up. I made a prediction that we could get to the play offs the next season, but it put pressure on us. It is horrible to see what they are going through now.

Clark at his most recent League job at Bury

Blyth Spartans

I wanted to get back on the coaching pitch. I always took a big interest in the local non-league scene and on weekends off would go around the grounds, Dunston in the FA Cup or whatever and see what was going on.

We lost a lot of players in the summer. I have always liked finding younger players, when in the football League. We signed boys from the Northern League and they found it difficult to make the step, so we've got a couple with more experienced in.

I am enjoying it. I still have aspirations to get back into full time football, and developing young players. That is my ambition again.

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