Ciaran Clark out to emulate Aston Villa legends Olof Mellberg and Martin Laursen

The 25-year-old defender wants to build on his impressive 2014-15 season by establishing himself as the club's next great centre-back.

Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark has told the club’s official website how he is desperate to become a claret and blue legend like former centre-backs Martin Laursen and Olof Mellberg.

Clark, who joined Villa at the age of 11, was coming up through the club’s ranks while the Scandinavian duo were each starring in the first-team through the 2000s, before earning his long-awaited senior debut in August 2009.

The Republic of Ireland international never got the chance to line up alongside the pair, having seen Mellberg join Juventus in the summer of 2008 and Laursen forced to retire 12 months later due to recurring knee problems, but he still felt their undeniable influence around the club.

Now looking to establish himself as one of the first names on Tim Sherwood’s teamsheet, he believes he cannot go wrong if he follows the examples both set during their respective spells in the Midlands.

“I have seen - and worked with - some brilliant defenders during my time at Villa,” Clark told "You look at Olof and Martin. They were held in such high esteem at Bodymoor Heath.

"They were top professionals, trained well, lived well and the manager could rely on them to do their job.

"I want to be like that too. I want to be one of the very first names on Tim Sherwood's team sheet.

"The only way to do that is by working hard in training. It's a simple formula with the gaffer. If you do well, you play. There's no better incentive.”

 2014-15 Premier League PositionTeamErrors Lead To GoalTotal TacklesTackles AccuracyTotal ClearancesHeaders WonHeader SuccessInterceptionsPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Ciaran Clark DF Aston Villa 0 39 87% 200 76 64.96% 47 79% 25 1,991

Clark meanwhile considers his 2014-15 season a breakthrough one, despite having begun the campaign as the club’s fifth choice centre-back behind Ron Vlaar, summer signing Philippe Senderos, Nathan Baker and Jores Okore.

After making just four appearances over the first few months of the term, the former trainee was brought into the line-up for November’s 1-1 home draw with Southampton due to a spate of defensive injuries and built on an impressive performance to start all but two of the next 26 games.

Earning rave reviews in the process, the resurgent stopper was being touted as the leading candidate for the club's player of the season award heading into the run-in but then saw his campaign cut cruelly short after suffering knee ligament damage in April’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

"I feel last season was a breakthrough one for me,” Clark added. “I started it as fifth choice centre-back. I had Philippe, Ron, Nathan and Jores ahead of me but by the time my campaign ended with injury, I had got myself into the team on a regular basis.

"I felt my form was good, I was playing well and I was confident. But then I sustained my knee injury at Tottenham."

Nevertheless, Clark is now back fit at the start of pre-season training and, with former skipper Vlaar leaving on a free transfer earlier this month, could well be set to take on the role of the backline’s leader going forward.

There have been also been reports of a potential contract extension, which, based on last season’s form, would be much-deserved.

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