Gareth Evans is convinced Pompey’s next 100 club inductee is destined for the Premier League.
Matt Clarke will tomorrow wrack up a century of Blues appearances when he lines up against MK Dons.
Clarkie’s probably one of the best centre-halves I’ve played with – and a really nice lad as wellGareth Evans
By doing so, the 21-year-old emulates Evans, Kyle Bennett, Christian Burgess and Conor Chaplin in achieving the landmark during the current campaign.
Since recruited to the club initially on loan by Paul Cook in August 2015, the central defender has established himself as a pivotal Pompey performer.
Under Kenny Jackett, Clarke’s outstanding form continues to be monitored by regular visits from scouts affiliated with clubs higher up the leagues.
Evans also arrived at Fratton Park in that summer of 2015 – and has observed the development of a team-mate he believes can go all the way to the top.
He said: ‘Clarkie is brilliant.
‘I am not going to say he has improved loads in his time here because that would assume when we signed him he wasn’t a good player – he was a very good player!
‘But he has come on in leaps and bounds, every week he just seems to get better.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he got into the Premier League. That’s not bigging him up too much, that is what he is capable of.
‘If you see the way Adam Webster has gone about his career, playing week in, week out in the Championship, well, Matt’s just as good as Webby – if not better in my opinion.
‘That’s not being horrible to Webby, I just really rate Clarkie that highly.
‘He is constantly in the gym making himself stronger, he’s out on the pitch as long as anyone making his feet quicker, he does a lot of speed and agility work.
‘The hard work he puts in doesn’t go unnoticed and we are now starting to see benefits of that on a Saturday now. He’s only going to get better.
‘Look at how much he has improved coming out with the ball, very rarely do you see him lose it. He’s hard to get off the ball.
‘It’s that all-round game, his reading and positioning, everything has come on in leaps and bounds.
‘Clarkie’s probably one of the best centre-halves I’ve played with – and a nice lad as well, which always helps.’
The former Ipswich man’s defensive pairing with Burgess helped the Blues claim the League Two title last term.
They remain the backbone of today’s side – and the best partnership in League One according to Evans.
‘It’s hard to pinpoint some really decent centre-halves I’ve played with because Clarkie sticks head and shoulders above most,’ the Pompey vice captain added.
‘Burge is all right I suppose! He has been fantastic since coming to the club as well, I don’t want to do him a disservice.
‘They have a really strong central-defensive partnership, probably the best in the league.
‘You just get used to saying it now – “Clarkie and Burg were brilliant today”. It has become “Oh well, it’s just another game for them”.
‘You never really hear they were all over the shop.
‘They are so consistent and so good at their jobs.’