Date:Thursday September 7 2006
There are few Wolves fans without an opinion on Leon Clarke.
In his first few years as a professional footballer, he has seen his initial rising star turn into a lead balloon, gone from fledgling hero to number one villain, and gone from a boy to man in the process.
Now, after a lengthy silence, he has opened up to the Birmingham Mail about what the last couple of years have been like growing up at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
'It was hard for me last season, it was a big learning curve after breaking through the season before.'
'There were good times and bad times, more bad times to be honest, but Terry Connor told me to learn from it, take it on the chin and start growing up and being a man.'
'I think I've done that, and have hopefully learned from it to use to my advantage in the future.' he said.
'I wouldn't say my attitude is completely spot-on now, after all nobody's perfect, but it's a whole lot better and hopefully I can keep it going.'
Throughout all of his ups and downs, Leon has never lost the support of arguably the most important person in his professional life, The Gaffer.
Mick McCarthy's viewpoint on his potential is no different from the 2 men before him, something Leon appreciates perhaps more than most.
'The manager has been brilliant with me, putting his arm around my shoulder and telling me I'm a good player and that if I'm doing the right things I'll be involved,' he added.
Perhaps the biggest task ahead of Leon though, is winning over the fans. The lifeblood of Wolverhampton Wanderers can be some of the most demanding in the land, and once their minds are set, they can be very difficult to change.
But there now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. If opionions can't quite be said to have changed, they may at least now be turning.
And Leon knows the best way to bring about what would be, a remarkable reversal.
'I seem to be getting a good reception this season and the fans have been really good to me,'
'No one has said anything negative, it's all been positive. 'Obviously there was a bad time last season but the fans seem to be supporting me now and hopefully I can give them something back, not least with a few goals.'
'There's nothing better than having the fans behind you, when things aren't going well and it's a bit negative it does affect you but when it's the other way round they are like a 12th man.'
There are those that will never be happy. There are those not prepared to hand out second chances.
Perhaps they have never needed one themselves.
Leon Clarke has shown maturity and strength of character in facing up to past events, and has learned from them, as he makes the transition from the follies of youth to becoming a man, and for that alone he deserves his chance for redemption.
Only time will tell if he is allowed that.
Vital Wolves certainly hopes that he is.
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