IF they want putting up for the night, Billy Clarke’s in-laws had better hide their Ipswich scarves tomorrow.
The Seasiders frontman met his partner when he played for the Suffolk club. Her family are all Ipswich fans and are travelling to the north-west for tomorrow’s game.
They’re meant to be staying overnight on the Fylde... though it seems that could be in doubt.
“My missus is from the area and all her family will be rooting for Ipswich,” said Clarke.
“Mind you if they want to stay in my house they’ll have to reassess that.”
Clarke grew up in Cork, but was spotted by Ipswich as a teenager and moved to England to join the club’s academy.
He made startling progress, helping Ipswich win the FA Youth Cup in 2005 and making his first team debut later that year, a month shy of his 18th birthday.
It seemed as if he had the world at his feet but then, as happens with so many younger players tipped for greatness, Clarke endured a tricky period.
Loan spells at numerous clubs followed and he excelled – smashing 17 goals in 33 games for Darlington, Northampton and Brentford. But this meant little to Roy Keane, who, shortly after taking over the reigns at Portman Road in May 2009, told Clarke he was being released.
Fortunately Ian Holloway had spotted the Irishman’s potential and snapped him up on a free transfer.
He said: “It’s brilliant for me to be still playing in the Championship,” said Clarke after signing, who had expected to go to a League One or Two club.
Everyone knows what’s happened since.
Clarke had a fine first season, scoring a goal fondly remembered by Seasiders fans everywhere – curling in a beauty against arch-rivals Preston in the opening seconds of a league game.
He helped Pool get promoted to the Premier League... then suffered the heartbreak of missing the whole top flight campaign because of a serious knee injury.
Now he’s back, he feels he’s getting stronger with every game, and he is a cert to start tomorrow’s game. Which, given the opposition and Clarke’s history, is a bonus for him.
“Obviously it means a bit more to me because of the time I spent there, but to be honest I don’t know anyone there any more. I know a few of the staff but all the boys have gone. Paul Jewell has brought in 11 or 12 players this season,” said the 23-year-old.
“It will be nice to play against them, though. The only time I’ve faced them since I left was when I came on as a substitute in the home game at Bloomfield Road during the promotion season.”
Clarke is expecting much better from Jewell’s side at Bloomfield. “Seven-one is a freak result no matter who you are playing,” he said.
“But they bounced back from that the next match by beating Leeds at home so they are obviously over it.
“And since then they’ve had the international break to get right what went wrong in that match, so I’m sure they will be a much tougher proposition.
“We’re looking forward to it. This game, and next week’s Cardiff match, will be two big tests for us because they are two decent sides. Like us, Cardiff will be wanting to go straight back up.
“But we are getting better and we are confident, so hopefully we can get a couple of good results.”