Matt Clarke: I’m ready for Pompey first-team spot

Matt Clarke made his return against Yeovil. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke made his return against Yeovil. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin Picture: Paul Currie

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Fit-again Matt Clarke insists he is ready to reclaim his Pompey starting spot.

The central defender this week returned to the first-team following almost five months on the sidelines.

We knew what the injury was but it just took longer to heal than we thought it would

Matt Clarke

A groin injury sustained against Wycombe in April saw Clarke miss the play-off push as well as pre-season.

Yet Tuesday night’s trip to Yeovil in the Checkatrade Trophy marked his return to action.

Encouragingly, there was no adverse reaction to the teenager’s pre-agreed 61 minutes on the pitch.

Now he is targeting tomorrow’s visit of Crawley as a potential League Two comeback.

He said: ‘It is up to the manager whether to pick me but I am now ready.

‘Obviously I feel I can play whenever required. If I do start to feel anything or there are things I am not really sure about then I will just go to the physios and make sure we keep everything good.

‘Before kick-off against Yeovil I was a bit tentative about whether I was ready.

‘However, as I got into the game I realised I was fit and able to do what I wanted to do on the pitch.

‘There were no injury set-backs, coming off on the hour mark was pre-planned.

‘Kicking long balls has not really been perfect yet.

‘For the first few on Tuesday night I was tentative but after that it was okay.

‘You see people pull up and that is your fear but I feel fine and ready to play again.’

The sale of Adam Barton to Partick Thistle has prompted a reshuffle in the central defensive pool this week.

His departure has been offset by the arrival of Dominic Hyam on loan from Reading.

However, the youngster is presently on duty with Scotland under-21s, ruling him out of the Crawley clash.

With Jack Whatmough coming back from a knee problem, Clarke is expected be involved in tomorrow’s squad.

By his own admission, the former Ipswich player’s absence has been longer than initially anticipated.

But a frustrating period in his fledgling career is finally over.

He added: ‘It was not really worse than initially thought, just slower to come back from.

‘We knew what the injury was but it just took longer to heal than we thought it would.

‘It started as a tear at the top of the groin and then was rescanned and it was something else in the same area.

‘Generally with footballers we don’t have strong-enough groins for our bodies but it is one of those things.

‘It was down to a number of factors.

‘It was my first season playing first-team professional football and maybe took its toll in the end, with elements of fatigue.

‘I probably felt it leading up to the Wycombe game last season, so maybe should have been a bit smarter.

‘Next time if do feel it I know not to push it. It’s all about learning.’