When Peter Clarke’s surprise release at Boundary Park was announced, he made his mind up to keep going and his determination showed when he returned early for pre-season training. Clarke is now 37-years-old and was voted the club’s player of the year for last season.
Clarke said, “I know it’s not just myself and that there are lots of footballers in my situation. It can be a precarious profession. I’m sure I speak for the vast majority when I say you’d rather know what you are doing next season when you go into the break. But that’s the hand I have been dealt. There are times when I catch myself in the mirror and think ‘what are you going to do now?’ That’s human nature. I left Oldham with happy memories but, from my point of view, it’s about moving on to the next challenge now.”
“We had some great spells in the season and a couple of indifferent ones but I firmly believe we had the makings of a decent team and squad. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite happen in the league and we finished in the middle of the table. But I think when we look back at that season we’ll remember the best performances and I don’t think there was one better than beating Fulham. I’ve been in football for 20 years, played close to 750 games, and I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the days I have had like that. It was something special. It was a great thing to be a part of and to see the smiles on the supporters’ faces that day just reminded me how great football can be at times. When the time comes and I think ‘enough is enough’ it’ll be one of those experiences that I look back on and tell stories about.”
“From a personal point of view I feel really good. I feel rested, had that little bit of a break, and that desire to get back out there certainly hasn’t diminished. It is in your blood, I think. You are driven to be out there on a Saturday and a Tuesday night and I don’t think it’ll ever leave me. You crave the competitiveness of it, the battle and the fight. And I honestly think I have got plenty to offer a new club, plenty left in the tank, as they say. You get to the end of the season and your body is ready for a little break but then in a couple of weeks you start to miss the routine, being around the lads on a daily basis. I’ve already started getting back on the grass doing fitness work or going down to the gym because nowadays that is what you have to do to prepare yourself. Working on your own in the summer is absolutely essential. Most players will vouch that pre-season isn’t a time they especially enjoy but it’s a necessary evil to ensure your body is in the best shape possible. It’s a job we are lucky enough to have, so those sacrifices you make are nothing in the grand scheme of things. There’s a small window to relax but then realism kicks in and you know you can’t eat and drink what you want.”
“I’d like to think I learned from every stage of my career but in the last few years I’ve played at clubs which have had their own difficulties and that has taught me a lot. At Blackpool there was the big stand-off between the supporters and the ownership, at Bury and Oldham there were well-documented financial implications. When you have been through those you perhaps learn to deal with them better. I found that I can concentrate on my football – in fact in some circumstances the games and the training is a release for frustration.”