Family thoughts swept to one side for O’s skipper Clarke
19:07 09 May 2014
It could be a dilemma for the Clarke family household if both Leyton Orient’s Nathan and Preston North End’s Tom reach Wembley, but for the O’s skipper it would be ‘perfect’.
Peterborough and Rotherham stand in their respective way from making it a family final though and for Nathan – an ever present in Russell Slade’s side all season – the only focus is on tomorrow’s encounter with the Posh.
“It’s going to be a tough one whoever we got in the play-offs,” said Clarke.
“You tend to look back at the games you’ve played against them, but at the end of the day the play-offs are a different animal. Teams are set up differently; the focus is fully on that one team over the two legs.”
The O’s ensured the advantage of a home second leg with a third-place finish in the regular league season.
And while tomorrow is a game they want to win, he insists they’ve got to realise the bigger picture, and make sure they’re still in the contest come the second leg at Brisbane Road on Tuesday.
“We have got to play them again at our place and it will be a full house and an exciting game to be involved in,” said Clarke.
“It will be half time after tomorrow’s game and we have got to be careful either way to not be over excited or too downhearted. There’s another game to play and if we can finish the first game strong we can look forward to the home game.”
The possibility of one brother facing the other in the final has been the talk of the family, and while it’s an occasion Nathan would relish, he doesn’t feel the parents would enjoy it too much.
“Preston have drawn Rotherham so we’ve missed each other at the moment,” he added.
“It’s been mentioned now and again. When I first signed here I knew what qualities we had in the side and I knew if we all kept fit and healthy that we would have a good chance of making the play-offs.
“And with Preston being as big as they are and having the budget and the squad that they had, it was always spoken about that we could end up meeting each other.
“It would be perfect for us, but I don’t think it would be ideal for our parents. It would be a great achievement for both of us to be involved at Wembley.
“The parents try and keep as neutral as they can. They are similar to us in as long as we get through the games they are happy.”
Clarke and the O’s fellow defenders know they will have to keep a certain Britt Assombalonga quiet tomorrow and on Tuesday.
The former Watford man has 32 goals to his name this season, but while it’s only natural to look to the 21-year-old, Clarke knows Posh have quality all the way through their team.
“You just can’t focus on Assombalonga,” he added. “They have got a fantastic squad and whoever plays for them will make it a tough test for us.
“Especially as a back line the power that they have got going forward is their strength and we have got to watch out for that and be on our game.”
Being the captain always means you are the one that’ll life the trophy aloft at Wembley if you emerge victorious.
It’s only natural that those thoughts cross your mind and it would be the perfect present for the skipper, having scooped the Player of the Year award with the O’s.
“It’s a massive adrenaline rush when you start to think about lifting it,” said Clarke.
“You think of the positives, but you have just got to get through these two games and play as well as I can and then give myself as good a chance as any to be lifting that trophy.
“It’s been a great season personally for me, to be involved in all 46 league games is a great achievement for me and to get player of the year was a nice little icing on the cake.
“But we’ll focus on these next two games and hopefully, fingers crossed; if everything goes to plan we can get to Wembley.”