Stoke City will ‘intensify’ their efforts to sign Matt Clarke – if Pompey fail to win promotion to the Championship this season.
That’s according to the Stoke Sentinel, who claim Potters boss Nathan Jones has identified the Blues centre-half as one of six or seven key signings he’d like to make during the close season at the BET365 Stadium
Clarke, who is contracted to Fratton Park until the summer of 2020, has had yet another impressive campaign at the heart of the Pompey defence, with his ever-presence in the league helping Kenny Jackett’s side finish four in the table.
Named in the EFL League One team of the season, and the winner of The News/Sports Mail player of the season, the centre-half is currently involved in the Blues’ play-off semi-final battle with Sunderland, where a place in the Championship is at stake.
Pompey go into Thursday’s second-leg tie against the Black Cats at Fratton Park a goal down, following their 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
There’s plenty of hope on the south coast that that deficit can be overturned, setting up a potential Wembley showdown against either Charlton or Doncaster Rovers.
But if the Blues fail in their bid to secure the one remaining place in next season's Championship, the Stoke Sentinel are adamant Clarke will be one of Jones’ top targets.
They’ve credited the former Luton man with an interest in Oldham’s George Edmundson – a player reportedly interesting Pompey, too – but have said: ‘Jones’ interest in Portsmouth centre half Matt Clarke will intensify if Pompey fail to win promotion from League One.’
Jones is also quoted as saying: ‘Hopefully in May, we can get a few.
‘The majority need to be in (for the start of pre-season on June 26) because we want to set the environment and the tone as early as possible and that can only happen if we do our recruitment early.
‘It will probably be in the region of six or seven. Key ones. Good characters, good athletes of varying ages and experience, but ones we think will take us forward.’
Clarke has made 174 appearances to date for the Blues over the past four seasons.