The Portsmouth gym regime which helped mould Matt Clarke into a £4m Brighton player

It has proven pivotal in the development of a League Two defender into a Premier League resident.

By neil.allen1
Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 10:00 am

And Matt Clarke has no intention of winding down the gym regime he credits with driving his career.

Hilsea’s Roko has lost one of its most recognisable regulars following the 22-year-old’s Pompey departure for Brighton.

Clarke’s commitment to pre-training work-outs has long been lauded by team-mates, impressed at the defender's dedication.

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Usually focused on weights to bolster his arms and chest, he believes 7-8kg have been shed since his July 2015 south-coast arrival.

And it has underpinned an impressive rise.

Clarke said: ‘Gym work is something I enjoy and benefits me. In my head, I feel better for doing it.

‘Sometimes during the season the training out on the pitch isn’t that intense. As long as I do my gym work, you feel it doesn't matter if you want to take it a little easier.

Matt Clarke powers in a header against Wycombe in April's 3-2 Pompey success. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘You see top players and they look like men, they’re strong. Sometimes you can get found out when trying to make the transition into first-team football and are not quite strong enough, it can catch up on you.

‘It’s something I felt was essential if I wanted to be a centre-half – and I’ll continue it.

‘You definitely judge people on the way they look when they come into training. They look skinny, they look young, so they may not get the respect they really deserve.

‘As a centre-half, when you are standing in the tunnel looking at opposition players you judge them. It’s the way they stand and how imposing they look.

‘In many respects, I want people to look at me and think “I don’t fancy going up against him today”.’

Despite sealing his Pompey switch on Friday, Clarke was back in Roko’s gym days later.

With Brighton's pre-season starting on Thursday, there can be no slowing.

He added: ‘It’s a slow process. I’ve become stronger but also lost quite a bit of weight since arriving at Pompey.

‘I’ve probably lost between 7-8kg through tweaking my diet. I work as hard as I always have, but am getting a little bit smarter.

‘I enjoy the progression of it, you can see small improvements.’