By Amir Mir

Ciaran Clark believes the only way he could have improved as a player was to leave Aston Villa, and claimed Rafa Benitez played a big part in his move to Newcastle this summer.

Centre-back Clark made a £5million switch to Championship rivals Newcastle after they activated the release clause in his contract.

The 27-year-old made 159 appearances for the Midland giants in all competitions, but suffered relegation with the claret and blue last season.

“I feel like I’m learning already ,” Clark told the Times as quoted in the Birmingham Mail.

“Every time you step onto the training pitch he [Benitez] tries to improve you as a team and an individual. That’s something I haven’t had much of over the last few years.

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“He picks up on everything, every little detail.”

The Republic of Ireland international has been used as a centre-back and left-back by Benitez this season, making two appearances for the Spaniard.

Clark’s career at St James’ Park did not get off to the best of starts as the versatile defender conceded a penalty in his side’s 4-1 win over Reading in his first game for the club.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, the club’s summer signing wants to take responsibility as they aim for a Premier League push.