Cultured centre-back catches eye of former Portsmouth boss 

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MANAGERIAL duties with Salisbury mean Steve Claridge isn’t able to get to Fratton Park as frequently as he may have done previously. 

Yet the Pompey hall-of-famer has run the rule over Kenny Jackett’s League One leaders on several occasions this season.

Matt Clarke heads home against Burton. Picutre: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke heads home against Burton. Picutre: Joe Pepler

And Matt Clarke is the player who Claridge has been most impressed by.  

The cultured centre-back has continued his hurtling progress this campaign.

He’s featured in every game to date, scoring three goals. 

The Ipswich academy product has caught the eye with his bulldozing drives forward, as well as resolute defending when the Blues have been put under pressure.

And it’s both aspects of Clarke’s game which have been praised by Claridge.

The former Pompey boss told The News: ‘I’ve been to Fratton Park a couple of times and keep an eye with what’s happening. 

‘I like Matt Clarke – I think that he is a decent centre-half.

‘He’s one of those when you know wherever you go to he can play a little bit. But he’s also one of those that will stand up when the bullets start to fly, so to speak.

‘He’s impressed me this season. 

‘He hasn’t been booked yet and it just shows it’s not a game where you can go around and kick people anymore

‘He’ is a physical presence and, at times, he’s scored some important goals.’

Many members of the Fratton faithful regard Clarke as Pompey’s prized asset. 

The 22-year-old looks certain to play in the Championship, at least, during his career, and has reportedly been tracked by the likes of Watford, Brighton and Bristol City in the past.

Claridge feels the real test for Clarke will be when he is plying his trade in the second tier.

And the former Leicester and Birmingham striker hopes it is with Jackett's side.

‘Good players in League One can play in the Championship and good players in the Championship can play in the Premier League,’ added Claridge. 

‘There’s not that much difference and people develop at different rates.

‘He’s got that bit of experience and is physically developed.

‘All he can do is what he is doing currently.

‘The test will come after that – hopefully it is with Portsmouth.

‘People who watch him week-in, week-out know what he brings to the pitch.’