FIRST HE witnessed Michael Doyle hold the prestigious title aloft.
Then, last year, he saw Enda Stevens take the accolade at the start of an afternoon which will live long in the memory against Cheltenham.
Matt Clarke admitted to a pang of jealously on those occasions, that it wasn’t him receiving the plaudits.
That proved a motivation for the 21-year-old to deliver the season of outstanding form which sees him in the spotlight for the end-of-season honours.
Clarke was this week named player of the season as well as picking up the players’ player title at Pompey’s gala dinner.
He then claimed four of the supporters’ club titles ahead of yesterday’s final-day meeting with Peterborough.
But it’s collecting the iconic News/Sports Mail Player of the Season crown which sees the defender follow in the footsteps of the likes of Noel Blake, Mark Hateley, Darren Anderton, Peter Crouch and David James.
And Clarke feels that’s a reflection of the strides he’s made as he now joins those greats and his former team-mates.
‘The goal is to be promoted with Portsmouth and to succeed as a team,’ he said.
‘But there’s accolades and things like that. If you pick them up along the way, that’s nice, too.
‘It’s nice to be appreciated in any walk of life.
‘Last year and the year before I was watching other people pick up the awards.
‘In the back of your mind, you’re thinking why can’t that be me? I felt I’d had a good season last year and I didn’t pick up any awards.
‘So I knew I had to up it and be a whole new level above where I was. That’s really worked out for me.’
Clarke maintains a grounded temperament, despite picking up the plaudits this term.
There’s rumoured to be a long list of suitors from the Championship and Premier League keen on securing the services of Pompey’s prized asset.
Clarke isn’t getting carried away, though, and underlined there is a lot of strides he still needs to make in his own game moving forward.
He added: ‘There’s room to improve. I’m always working to improve.
‘If you’re young and performing, that should come naturally. I take confidence from that. I’m always working to get better.
‘There are some games where people are saying how well I’ve played and, in my head, I’m thinking about the things I haven’t done quite right.
‘So there are always areas to improve for me personally.
‘There’s my long game and improving on my right foot.
‘You can always win more headers and you can always make more tackles as well.
‘You should always work towards being that complete player.
‘I don’t think there are many players out there who would say they are the complete player. So you are working towards somewhere you may never get to, but you still have to aim for that.’