Matt Clarke’s Portsmouth progress has surpassed Christian Burgess’ early expectations
Matt Clarke’s hurtling Pompey progress has surpassed the early expectations of Christian Burgess.
Clarke arrived at Fratton Park on loan from Ipswich in 2015, before joining permanently a year later as a makeweight for Adam Webster moving the opposite direction.
And the cultured defender has made massive strides on the south coast.
He played a key role when Paul Cook’s Blues captured the League Two title in the 2016-17 campaign, while he was voted man of the match in the Checkatrade Trophy triumph at Wembley last month.
The 22-year-old is regarded as Pompey’s prized asset and looks destined to play at a higher level than League One during his career.
Burgess admitted he didn’t initially see his centre-back partner’s full potential.
But the former Peterborough ace saluted the improvements Clarke has made – and is his selection to retain his Players’ Player of the Season award.
‘Clarkie’s development has been really good,’ said Burgess.
‘He’s grown into such a player and you might not have seen that potential early on.
‘Cooky obviously did but I don’t think he came straight into the side. I think Adam Webster was playing alongside me and Clarkie had to bide his time.
‘In the past couple of years, he has been fantastic and really come on as a player.
‘He’s come into his own. Last season he won Players’ Player and he’s probably my tip for this year.
‘It’s a testament to how well he's done. Even in terms of things like fitness and out on the training pitch, he’s just climbed the ladder so well.
‘He’s gone past people in fitness tests. In the bleep test, he wouldn’t have gone past people and might have been a bit further down, but this season he’s right at the top.
‘He has grown into a really good all-round player.
‘Even when you think he should just kick the ball out he just brings it down.
‘He has made a massive change. A few boys might not have said he’ll play the way he does now at the start when he came here.
'But it has been good to watch.’
Webster has since departed Ipswich and is now a key member of a Bristol City side pushing for the Premier League.
Burgess heaped praise on the commitment the academy graduate displayed when he was at Fratton Park – and believes Clarke's application is similar.
He added: ‘It’s important players apply themselves if they want to go on to the next stage.
‘You saw that with Adam Webster, who did bits off the pitch as well on it.
‘You see that with Clarkie and that’s key to anyone who wants to progress in their career.
‘It tells because Adam has gone on and Clarkie is going to go on and play in the Championship.’