A surprise answer to Pompey's midfielder search

KENNY JACKETT has stressed the need for midfield reinforcements this summer.

Sunday, 20th May 2018, 8:00 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:36 am
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Pompey boss had made some muscle in the middle of the park a key area of focus as he goes about reinforcing his side.

But the answer to finding some drive in central areas could lie a lot closer to home than Jackett expected.

In fact, some midfield power could arrive from the most unlikely of sources in the Blues manager’s existing ranks,

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Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Step forward Pompey player of the season Matt Clarke as a surprise candidate to pep up his side’s midfield options.

Clarke may have just finished a season which saw him pick up a host of plaudits and awards as a central defender.

But the 21-year-old, who has generated a host of suitors in the position, has told of his history as a midfielder.

And, incredibly, he only switched to a defensive role after he made the senior breakthrough at Ipswich in the 2014-15 season.

Clarke’s first-team appearances for the Tractor Boys came largely on the left side of a diamond formation.

But manager Mick McCarthy spotted qualities which he felt suited the 6ft 5in powerhouse to a defensive role.

Clarke said: ‘I’ve only been a defender since I was an under-18.

‘I played a lot of football in midfield.

‘Even in the youth team I was a left-sided midfielder. It was left of a diamond, though, I wasn’t a winger!

‘But when I came on for Ipswich (first team) I played left midfield three times and centre midfield once.

‘I’ve flirted with most positions and hopefully that does give me the platform to use my feet when I do get the ball.

‘I was a centre midfielder and did similar things to what I do now.

‘Mick McCarthy saw me as a central defender, though, and it worked out.

‘Making that move worked out fine.

‘Could I help out there now? I’m not saying that – I’m happy where I am at centre-half!’

Clarke explained it’s his midfield instincts which have a lot to do with the trademark driving runs forward from a his defensive role he regularly showcased last season.

That had opposing sides on the back foot, and memorably came to fruition with an outstanding goal in the Checkatrade Trophy win against Crawley last October.

Clarke added: ‘It’s something which has always been in my game.

‘I enjoy running with the ball. That’s all I see sometimes.

‘Some players see a long pass and some players see a short pass.

‘I sometimes see a bit of a dribble.

‘It’s something I do because I feel it can help the team.

‘It’s not me trying to show off or saying I can dribble past people.

‘It’s something I have in my game and something I will try to keep using as a tool.

‘But first and foremost I have to defend.

‘If I start messing up at the back the dribbles will have to stop!

‘I had the one against Crawley. I was a little upset it didn’t make the goal of the season shortlist!

‘I got a nosebleed being that high, but it was nice for it to pay off that time.’