Peter Clarke laid the blame for Blackpool’s relegation on a disastrous pre-season – admitting the drop had left him feeling ‘empty’.
The defender is one of the few players who have survived the many changes to Pool’s squad this season, managing 36 appearances at the heart of their defence.
With relegation confirmed and the club facing finishing with the worst points total in Championship history, Clarke suggested the club’s summer strategy played a huge part in the problems.
“To put my finger on it would be difficult but the number of players we had in pre-season didn’t help things,” said the 33-year-old.
“Then there was the pre-season itself with just two games
“The squad was still being put together as we arrived at the City Ground on the opening day. We had players arriving after the start of the season with varying levels of fitness, and it all didn’t help the season.
“Pre-seasons are vital times for players, management staff and the club as a whole.
“You need that level of fitness, understanding and a style of play.
“All these things are built up and worked upon in the six-week pre-season, unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Relegation will hit Clarke harder than most with the defender in his third spell at Bloomfield Road after first joining in 2002.
He arrived at Bloomfield Road in a deal which saw Keith Southern also join from Everton, and he admitted his friend’s comments in The Gazette about Pool’s decline really hit home.
“It was horrible to read the likes of Keith Southern and Ian Evatt talk about the fall from grace – horrible to be involved in this.
“It’s sad to see how the club have fallen since those lads were here and did so well.
“This sort of feeling won’t go away over night, it’s something which will stick with me.
“It was horrible, it’s not nice at all, I can’t put it into words.
“I fully understand how the fans feel at the moment and it’s not nice to see the club’s fall from grace.”
Clarke is one of 25 players who have no idea where their futures lie, with his Blackpool contract set to expire this summer.
Pool are yet to inform him if they plan to take the year option clause in his deal, which would see him stay until the summer of 2016.
When asked about the chances of staying, he said: “At this moment of time I can’t answer that question, the club have an option on me.
“In the summer I came back and I’m here as long as I’m wanted, if that’s for another five games or five years I don’t know.
“For as long as I’m here I’ll be very, very proud to wear the shirt.”