Pompey man keeps defying pre-season blows

Pompey defender Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler
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It has been a pre-season involvement tallying 61 minutes over the past two years.

Yet remarkably Matt Clarke continues to defy footballing convention.

I’d say when you’re injured you end up doing a bit more than the others, it’s money in the bank for when you get back in there and up to speed

Matt Clarke

Injury robbed him of successive summer training programmes in the build up to the last two campaigns.

Deprived of the staple fitness diet for footballers at all levels.

Nonetheless, the 20-year-old has shrugged off such setbacks to re-establish himself in Pompey’s first-team.

Last term a persistent groin problem denied him the opening six games of the season, yet he still amassed 36 appearances and a League Two title.

This year Clarke’s length of absence also spanned six matches, albeit this time influenced by a hamstring injury collected in a second pre-season outing.

Still, the powerful central defender has now lined up in the Blues’ past three matches and refuses to look undercooked in the first-team glare.

And, own goal at Northampton aside, he continues to look every inch the impressive young player the Fratton faithful knows he is.

Clarke said: ‘When you are injured you actually do a lot more fitness work than you’d probably do during pre-season.

‘It’s an effort to make sure you are compensating for the football you’ve missed.

‘When you are injured there’s no games, you’re not really getting ready for anything, so you work day in, day out on fitness, even when the first-team have their recovery days.

‘I’d say when you’re injured you end up doing a bit more than the others. It’s money in the bank for when you get back in there and up to speed.

‘You have one down day a week, which is what’s required to load yourself to optimise your recovery.

‘When you are injured it’s almost a race to get back because you don’t want to miss games.

‘I suppose when you are younger you are a little bit quicker to recover.

‘As you get older there’s more experience behind your recovery, so it works both ways.

‘You’ve got to listen to the people who know what they are talking about and work as hard as you can to get as fit as you can.

‘I just need to be a bit sensible and manage my own body. I’ve missed a lot of football and it’s a long season, so if I have to miss a few days of training, so be it.

‘It’s all about the bigger picture – and that is staying on the pitch for the majority of the season.’

Earlier this month, Clarke was thrown in against Rotherham, lacking even reserve-team preparation.

His comeback earned him the man-of-the-match accolade – and the defender admits he had to win over himself during the game.

He added: ‘It’s in your head a little bit, you play thinking “am I fit enough, am I up to speed?” and it does take a little bit of time.

‘Then after you’ve had a few touches of the ball, made a tackle, produced a header, you start to get a bit settled, you feel at home again.

‘After Rotherham I was a little bit achy and sore, but that is to be expected, once I did recovery I felt good, ready to go again.’