Clarke ready after year from hell

Billy Clarke scores for Pool at Oldham
Billy Clarke scores for Pool at Oldham
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BILLY Clarke hopes Saturday’s goal against Oldham is the first of many for Blackpool this season.

It was the 23-year-old’s first strike since his horrific knee injury 12 months ago, which kept him out of the whole Premier League campaign.

After featuring in both pre-season games so far, the striker is convinced he can be a regular on the scoresheet this season

Clarke said: “It’s a good feeling to get a goal. Hopefully there are many more to come this season from me.

“There’s good competition up front. Hopefully, if I work hard on my game and do well in the pre-season games the manager will give me a chance. It’s just nice to be playing again.”

Clarke was a second-half substitute in the 2-1 defeat at League One Oldham, where Ian Holloway used 27 players.

He latched on to a pass from latest signing Paul Bignot to score but Clarke thinks this time of the year is all about fitness.

He added: “I’m happy with scoring but it was mainly a good fitness exercise for me and the lads. I still don’t feel 100 per cent. I’m not quite as sharp as I can be.

“But the pre-season games will help improve my sharpness. We’ve got a few more games before the start of the season and hopefully we’ll be ready when it comes.”

“This time of year is always tough, no matter what club you’re at, but the lads here make it a good crack. Portugal was great.”

Clarke’s Premier League dream was ripped away from him just two minutes into the first pre-season friendly at Tiverton Town in Devon last July. That ruptured cruciate ligament has forced him to look at the game differently.

Clarke said: “The injury has made me appreciate playing football a lot more. I used to beat myself up a bit, although I still do a little.

“The manager talks to me about it – if I do something wrong on the pitch it’s not the end of the world. I used to beat myself up when I did.”

“It’s just so nice to be playing again. I’ve had to change my whole warm-up process. I used to come out and just start smacking balls around the training ground.

“Keith Southern and Brett Ormerod would always ask how I could do that without pulling a muscle. I can’t do it now.”

First-choice striker DJ Campbell missed Saturday’s trip through illness as uncertainty surrounds his future. His exit could mean a more important role for Clarke, who is simply relishing the competition.

“It is exactly what you need,” he added. “In the season we went up, I think we had about 12 strikers.

“There were five on the bench for the play-off final, with a defender and a keeper. It was successful then and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be now.

“I was pleased we signed Kevin Phillips. He is just one of the lads in training and he’s fitted in really well.

“You hope to learn off experienced players like Kevin. The expectations won’t be a problem for us this season. We are all good players and can handle the pressure.

“There are clubs that have spent more than us this summer, so their expectations will be much higher.

“We will concentrate on our own game. We know what we do is good enough and we will be good enough.”