Why assistant boss Steve Clarke will be the cornerstone of Roberto Di Matteo's rule at Aston Villa

Readng Manager Steve Clarke

The experienced coach has been confirmed as Di Matteo's number two at Villa Park.

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After lengthy speculation, former West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was confirmed as Aston Villa's new manager last week in a move representing something of a gamble for the beleaguered club.

The Italian has undoubted pedigree in England, having won the Champions League with the Blues and steered the Baggies to a record-breaking Championship promotion, and has most recently been coaching in Germany with Schalke.

At Albion, Di Matteo built on the reputation he had begun to build at MK Dons of playing free-flowing attacking football which allowed his creative players to express themselves, as well as uniting his players fully behind his cause.

However, he also relied heavily on the support of assistant Eddie Newton at Dons, West Brom and Chelsea, with the coach doing the majority of the day-to-day work while Di Matteo focused on bigger picture work and man-management.

Without this support network from a strong assistant, the appointment of the 46-year-old would have been a tremendous gamble. But that's where Steve Clarke comes in.

Reading manager Steve Clarke

The man who worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Gianfranco Zola at West Ham United, and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool is one of the most experienced assistant bosses around and a far more encouraging man to bring in than previous short-lived Villa assistants such as Roy Keane and Ray Wilkins.

He is a reliable, old-fashioned, hands-on coach the kind of which Villa have desperately needed in recent times, and who would surely command the respect and trust of even any of this season's questionable senior players who may still be at the club come September.

Studious and tactically knowledgeable, Clarke has been reported by his players, notably at West Bromwich Albion where he was head coach in his own right, to be something of a disciplinarian, which is precisely what Villa have been so sorely missing in recent times under Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde.

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Clarke and Di Matteo were teammates at Chelsea during the former's last two seasons as a professional, and Di Matteo is reported to have lobbied intensely to get the Scottish coach on board at Villa Park as part of his deal to take over.

The Italian boss may have helped West Brom recover with immediate promotion, but he has never faced a challenge like this in his managerial career to date, joining a club in perhaps unprecedented crisis and being faced with the imperative of almost completely rebuilding the squad.

The presence of Clarke, along with fellow experienced coach Kevin Bond, at his right hand will be an immeasurable boost and a huge safety net which should allow Di Matteo more freedom to work, and at first glance Villa appear to have finally found a formula in the dugout which could yield success.

Readng Manager Steve Clarke

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