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First Team News

Clarke: "It's Nice To Be Back"

20 November 2017

North End captain Tom Clarke was delighted to be back involved on Friday night, after seven months out through injury.

The defender made a welcome return to the squad for the clash with Bolton Wanderers, and the 29-year-old was just happy to be back around the team on matchday.

Speaking to iFollow PNE ahead of the trip to Bristol City, Clarke said: "It was really good to be back in and around the squad and to feel the atmosphere on a matchday again. It's been a long time but it was nice to be out there.

"The injuries that we've had, with seven or eight defenders out at one time, is unknown. I've never known anything like it, it's been a difficult period for us and it [his return] has come a bit earlier than I expected.

"I wanted some minutes in friendly games first, but I've trained a couple of weeks and the gaffer asked how I was feeling and I was feeling good. He asked if I could be on the bench and I wouldn't turn that down, I want to get back as soon as possible and help this team in the next few games.

Clarke was almost called upon when Kevin O'Connor took a knock in the second half against Bolton, but the defender felt he was ready to take to the pitch if required.

"I looked around the bench and I was the only one who could come on, I feel ready. I need some minutes in these friendlies but if called upon, I'm ready and I'm always willing to be out on that pitch helping the team."

On the injury itself, the defender contnued: "It's pain free, the legs are aching but in a good way. It's been tough but it's nice to wake up with those feelings of aching legs and knowing that you've worked hard in training and that all of the hard work you've done previously is paying off. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling strong and I'm ready to kick on again now.

"It's a feeling that you want, you know you've worked hard in training and all of the work I've done with the physios has paid off."

Despite a long spell on the sidelines, Clarke hasn't been alone with the medical team, and despite the disappointment for his teammates, the former Huddersfield Town man has been grateful of the company.

"It's never nice to see lads in the medical room but it has helped that there's always someone there. It's never a nice time being in there on your own while everyone is training outside. It's good to help each other get back to fitness, we've had a lot of people in there so it's been nice to bounce off each other and work hard towards that common goal of getting back out there as soon as possible.

"We're a young team and to get these experienced players back will hopefully give them a lift and the crowd a lift, and get some bodies back and help the team and the manager out.

Although he may not have been involved in the action on the pitch, Clarke has continued to be a big influence in the dressing room, something that he has been grateful for.

"I've got experience that I can hopefully pass on to the young lads. Even when I've not been involved with the games, the gaffer has kept me involved which is really good of him. I've never felt isolated, I've always felt part of it and that's testament to him and my teammates that I've felt that way. It's been a long time but it feels like it's gone quite quick for me and I'm back involved now and raring to go."

To watch the full interview with Clarke, click on the video above.

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