Clark thinking positive
Ciaran Clark is confident he can succeed in both his Barclays Premier League and World Cup missions as he targets a rousing end to the season.
The Aston Villa defender met up with Ireland at the weekend having helped his club grab a top-flight lifeline with successive victories over fellow strugglers Reading and QPR. He will hope to return to the Midlands next week having also played his part in positive results for Ireland in their crucial qualifiers against Sweden in Stockholm and Austria in Dublin.
Despite his relatively tender years, Clark is one of the more experienced members of Paul Lambert's Villa side, and he believes a successful fight against relegation, coupled with his exposure at senior international level, could make the current season a pivotal one in his fledgling career. He said: "I am still only 23 and I am still learning my trade."
Clark added: "Although I am one of the more experienced lads at Villa, I am still only 23, like I said, and each day in training and each game, I am always trying to learn. Whether there are mistakes made or you have had a good performance, you need to try to forget about it quickly and learn from it and move on and concentrate on the next games.
"But I am hoping it will stand me in good stead for the future and I will keep improving as a player. The last two weeks, we have had some good results. It's always nice to come away after having two good results like that.
"It would have been a lot tougher if we had come away knowing we had lost two games. It's always a big confidence boost when you have won two games like that."
For the next few days at least, Clark's attention will turn to Ireland and a different challenge. Friday night's trip to the Friends Arena in Stockholm and Austria's visit to the Aviva Stadium four days later could prove pivotal to both Ireland's qualification hopes and manager Giovanni Trapattoni's presence at the helm.
Clark has started the last two friendlies - a 1-0 home defeat by Greece in November and a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Poland last month - but with the fit-again Sean St Ledger and Darren O'Dea back in contention, he faces an anxious wait to see who will partner John O'Shea in central defence.
Asked if he felt he had done enough to warrant selection, he said: "I would like to think so. You can only do what's been asked. To get the clean sheet was obviously good for us in the last game, and especially to get the win.
"But no matter who plays, they will go out and they will give it their best and hopefully we will do enough to get the three points."