Gareth Evans fears Matt Clarke is destined for the Championship should Portsmouth fail in play-offs
Pompey will struggle to retain prized-asset Matt Clarke if they cannot offer Championship football next season.
That’s the sobering message from Gareth Evans as the Blues seek promotion through the League One play-offs.
The highly-regarded 22-year-old has made 173 appearances and scored nine times since arriving in July 2015 from Ipswich, initially on loan.
This summer sees him enter the final 12 months of his existing Fratton Park contract, a period when at his most bankable.
And long-time Pompey team-mate Evans fears failure to leave League One this term could spark Clarke’s departure.
He said: ‘I’m bored of giving him compliments now!
‘Matt’s a great lad and fully deserves everything which comes his way. He’s a great player and obviously the trophy haul he’s had this season speaks volumes.
‘He’s got better every single year, improved season upon season, while obviously has aspirations of playing higher than League One football.
‘Hopefully Portsmouth can provide it, but I think it will be difficult to keep him if we don’t go up.
‘Matt’s obviously got aspirations of playing as high as he can in his career and football is a short career, so if we don’t make it to the Championship this season then he’ll be looking for something more.
‘He has developed since he came in as a young and inexperienced lad. Now you probably look at him as one of the more experienced lads in the changing room, considering everything he has gone through since he being at the club.
‘It’s not a surprise he has won all of the awards this season – and rightly deserves them.’
Clarke’s Championship aspirations will be encouraged by the progress of former Fratton Park team-mate Adam Webster.
Now aged 24, the defender from West Wittering has been named as Bristol City’s Player of the Season following an impressive maiden campaign since joining from Ipswich.
Clarke was used in part-exchange, plus £750,000, from the Tractor Boys to land Webster in July 2016.
Now the 22-year-old is bidding to join his ex-central-defensive partner in the Championship.
And current Blues colleague Nathan Thompson, echoes Evans’ belief that Pompey face a fight to keep him should they slip up in the hunt for promotion.
Thompson added: ‘For me, he (Clarke) is top level.
‘It will be very much dependent on if we go up.
'He may want a season at Portsmouth if we’re in the Championship, but I don’t think we'll be able to keep him in League One, that's for sure.'