Pompey owners take hardline approach over defender’s future

Ben Close, left, and Jack Whatmough celebrate Pompey's win at oldham last season/ Picture: Joe Pepler

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POMPEY are remaining steadfast in their determination to keep Matt Clarke.

The News understands the Blues have rebuffed enquiries for their prized asset, as interest in the defender continues.

Pompey's Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey's Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

But the club’s owners are taking a hard line to any interest for the 21-year-old.

Their stance is they intend to reject any advances for a player they feel will be central to their plans of getting out of League One.

And that includes the latest wave of interest for the man who picked up a stack of plaudits after an outstanding campaign.

Mark Catlin has stated the club are now under no pressure to sell, after Michael Eisner arrived at the helm last year.

He added, however, he couldn’t guarantee any players – including Clarke – would be at Fratton Park next season.

It’s a stance echoed by the player himself who refused to make any promises over where he’d be playing his football earlier this month.

Clarke stated he is content with life at Pompey, but was flattered by the talk of interest from clubs at a higher level.

But Eisner is adamant he will be staying put and is not interested in cashing in on Pompey’s most bankable asset.

Reading are the latest side to again be touted with a bid for Clarke, with boss Paul Clement keen to shore a defence which struggled last season after making the Championship play-off final and losing on penalties to Huddersfield.

Bristol City are also said to be keen on the former Ipswich man, who was signed by Paul Cook in the deal which took Adam Webster to Portman Road in 2016.

Wolves, Hull, Brighton, Leeds and Watford are other teams who have been touted for a move for the player.

Clarke signed a contract extension in February which ties him to Pompey until 2020.

That means, however, he would be at his most bankable now with 26 months still to run on his agreement.

The centre-half’s market value would depreciate the closer he came to the end of his deal. That doesn’t appear to concern Eisner, though, who feels Pompey will be getting best value from Clarke by utilising his talent on the pitch.

The Blues have previously sold their prized assets to balance the books in the period of community ownership.

Jed Wallace left to join Kenny Jackett at Wolves for £750,000 in 2015, with Webster following to Ipswich for the same fee a year later.

Clarke’s market value would be far in excess of that figure, though, with the number of sides rumoured to be interested in the player pushing the fee higher.

Peterborough have slapped a £6.5m valuation on Jack Marriott, who finished as League One’s top scorer this season. In League Two, Stevenage last week sold defender Ben Wilmot to Waftford for a fee of around £1m.