The only way Portsmouth will keep prized asset beyond next summer 

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It’s a departure that seems inevitable at some stage.

But holding on to Matt Clarke for as long as possible will be one of Kenny Jackett’s primary aims.

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Every Pompey fans who watches the cultured centre-back knows he’s destined for the top.

His team-mates alike foresee the same trajectory – Gareth Evans and Lee Brown believe the Premier League awaits the Ipswich academy graduate. 

Yet Clarke has allayed fears he’s planning on a departure from Fratton Park when the transfer window opens in January.

The centre-back has told The News he can fulfil his ambitions at the Blues. 

His main target will be to at least be an established Championship defender during his career.

That’s more than a realistic ambition given the way Clarke has demonstrated his class in League One week-in, week-out.

In fact, he’s made things look a bit too easy this term.  

There have been plenty of potential suitors for Clarke in the past, with the likes of Watford, Brighton and Bristol City all reportedly running the rule over him. 

Pompey rebuffed enquires for the 22-year-old in the summer, determined to keep hold of their prized asset in their push for League One promotion.

Clarke won’t be short of admirers during the next transfer window either.

But with the Blues currently sitting at the summit of League One, they will again take the same approach.

Allowing his best players to depart won’t be something Jackett will allow in pursuit of promotion, unless it’s an offer too good to refuse. 

Clarke being tied down to Fratton Park until 2020 is an advantage for the Blues, while he’ll also be eyeing up a second piece of silverware in three years. 

But to keep him beyond next summer, it’s imperative the Blues will preparing for the Championship. 

That means there can be no hiccup during the second half of this season and slipping out of the automatic places.

Although he’s still got age on his side, Clarke won’t be intending on another season in the third tier. 

Two will have been enough and he’ll be wanting to test himself against the likes of Aston Villa, Derby and Middlesbrough. 

A summer switch to a top-end second-tier club may even be too tempting for Clarke in the summer, regardless of the division Pompey are in.

But to give themselves the strongest chance possible of retaining the Barham-born defender’s services, Pompey will have to escape League One this time around.