Pool to sell skipper clarke

PETER Clarke will sign for Southend today in a deal which will send shockwaves through the Seasiders supporters.

The loss of their captain just three days before the start of the season is a hammer blow for the club, and chairman Karl Oyston and manager Simon Grayson have agonised for the last 24 hours about the situation.

However, in the end they decided they could not break a verbal promise made to Clarke.

They had promised the centre-back that if a bigger club came in for him they wouldn't stand in his way.

Even into the early hours of the morning Oyston was trying to persuade Clarke to stay.

However he has now admitted defeat.

"I am bitterly disappointed that who many would consider, myself included, as our best player is leaving because I would consider him over the last two seasons to have been fundamental in us maintaining our divisional status," said Oyston.

"It is a bodyblow that we are unable to agree terms for a new contract and that Peter understandably sees his future elsewhere.

"Every effort is and has been made to reverse this situation. But I think whatever the outcome we all should express our sincere gratitude to Peter for what he has bought to Blackpool during his time with us.

"Simon has been and will continue to seek to significantly strengthen the squad ahead of the Brentford game and until the closing of the transfer window at the end of August."

Pool will attempt to soften the blow for their fans by announcing a flurry of transfers, most notably ending Shaun Barker's contract dispute with Rotherham by paying a cash fee to bring him to Bloomfield Road.

Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham has also signed on loan and two other players, including a Championship midfielder and a proven striker, are in talks with the club.

The Seasiders hope to have them in before Saturday's kick off at Brentford

It's still a huge blow to lose Clarke though and the defender admitted it was one of the toughest decisions of his career to turn his back on Bloomfield Road.

However, the 24-year-old felt he couldn't turn down a chance of furthering his career at a higher-division club.

Clarke has left for a substantial six-figure fee, though some of that will go to his former club Everton who had a sell-on fee.

The Seasiders skipper spent yesterday at Southend and agreed terms during the afternoon.

Clarke told the Gazette that a big part of him was sad to be leaving but said he had never made any secret of his desire to further his career and play at the highest possible level.

He thanked all Pool fans for their backing over the past two seasons and said he would be back at the ground soon to watch his former team-mates in action.

Oyston tried his best to keep the captain at the club and matched the generous terms Southend had offered the 24-year-old.

But in the end it was simply Clarke's desire to play in The Championship, and test himself against teams like Birmingham and Sunderland, that sealed the move.

"I loved almost every minute of my time at Blackpool and they are a great set of lads and the fans are absolutely superb," said Clarke. "But I never made any secret from day one that I am an ambitious footballer who wants to play at the top level and this is a step up for me and something that I felt I just couldn't turn down.

"I'll keep in touch with everyone and be back to watch the lads in action and I'll always have a huge fond spot for Blackpool."

* SEASIDERS fans are reminded that Tuesday's first home clash with Nottingham Forest is all-ticket.

A big away following is expected and after clashes between rival fans at last season's game, Pool have made the match all-ticket on police advice.

* ROB Edwards has signed for Exeter City and will help their bid to win promotion from the Conference this season.

* SEASIDERS keeper Lewis Edge has joined Rochdale on loan until January.

Edge's chances of first team football are limited because Rhys Evans and Lee Jones will be fighting it our for the number one jersey.

"Because of that we wanted him to get first-team experience elsewhere," said a club spokesman.