FC Halifax Town: Caretaker-boss Clarke relishing his audition for the manager's job

Nathan Clarke
Nathan Clarke

Nathan Clarke says he is thoroughly enjoying his time as FC Halifax Town's caretaker-manager and would love to be given the job permanently.

Clarke, who is in temporary charge of the first-team along with head of youth development Steve Nichol, was interviewed for the managerial vacancy this morning (Sunday), and says he is treating his stint as caretaker-boss as an audition for the role.

"I have, this morning," Clarke said when asked if he had been interviewed. "It was something new for me, a new experience, but one that I've enjoyed.

"I think the five, six days that I've had the role, I've certainly jumped into it with both feet.

"I'm really enjoying it, so I hope that came across in the interview.

"I've got the backing of the lads as well, which is something that doesn't always happen.

"Hopefully it can be something positive, but if not, like I said before, I'm here to help Halifax move forward, whether that's as manager or player."

Clarke was at the helm for Town's 2-1 win at Darlington yesterday in their latest pre-season friendly, with Tobi Sho-Silva and Harry Freedman on the scoresheet for Halifax.

"It was a different challenge, a good test for us," said Clarke.

"They were a very strong side, so it was a completely different test from the Doncaster game, and possibly a bit more like how our season will be, who we're going to come up against, where teams are more in your face.

"It was a really good test but I felt the lads adapted really well on a big pitch, a lot of players got a lot of minutes, which was the whole aim of it, really.

"The team played well after going behind, they reacted well to get the goal back just before half-time, and then to go and get the win right at the end."

When asked what he had learned about the Town squad over the past week, Clarke said: "I knew it already but they're a fantastic bunch, it's certainly not been easy this past week, for anybody.

"But it's shown me that the team is willing to work hard, willing to just crack on despite all the disruption, get their heads down and work hard for me.

"It's me, Steve (Nichol) and Joe (Stead) that have got the chance to impress so I'm really pleased that the players have gone out and expressed themselves, and played well.

"I know it's only pre-season but it's a little mini-interview for myself in that sense so I'm glad we've had some positive results."

Clarke feels he has had a positive response from the Town squad since taking temporary charge.

"I really do, yeah," he said. "It's just been short of a week, and in that time there's been a lot of disruption, a disruption at the training ground with us not being able to train there, there's been changes in fixtures, having to play away from The Shay.

"But the team have kept their focus, they've worked hard, they've listened to what myself, Steve and Joe have put across and taken it on board.

"I think the main thing is they've worked hard, which is what pre-season's about at the end of the day, to get that fitness, get the minutes in.

"I'm really pleased we've managed to get two positive results."

Clarke feels Town are "a touch behind" where they need to be, with the start of the National League season a couple of weeks away.

"We're not miles behind," he said, "but obviously missing the game against Frickley was a big miss for us.

"Fitness-wise we've worked really hard this pre-season. The last manager certainly pushed everybody to their limits.

"Game-wise I think we're slightly behind but that's something we can replicate in training, make sure lads are match sharp and match ready.

"These past two games have certainly helped towards that."

Clarke didn't rule out Town organising another pre-season game to help get them up to speed.

"There's been talk of that," he said. "I need to look at that.

"There's people who played a lot more minutes for me yesterday, getting up to the 80-90 minute mark, which was fantastic to see.

"Everybody's reacted well to coming off the pitch, we've had no niggles, no slight injuries, so that's a massive positive.

"So we need to sit down and have a look at whether we schedule a game in for the middle of the week or not.

"There's always chance you can replicate that in training by putting on some match-realistic situations.

"I don't want to say yes or no, but it's something we've certainly looked at.

"But we're looking forward to our last pre-season game, playing at home, which is a big thing, and hopefully getting many more players up to 90 minutes against what will be a tough side."

Only winger Josh Macdonald and striker Dayle Southwell are on Town's injured list at the moment.

"Josh is desperately pushing to be involved," Clarke said. "He was asking me constantly last week to have 10-15 minutes on Saturday.

"We felt it was possibly a bit too soon for him. He's been patient, he's been out for a long time.

"He's desperate to be part of the team, but he's working hard on his fitness, and hopefully we can unleash him on Saturday and let him go and enjoy his football again."

On Southwell, Clarke said: "He's trained well, he's done the majority of the running, so he's not missed out on any fitness work.

"It's just more ball work now, and getting that confidence again to strike through the ball.

"He's certainly pushing to stake a claim, which is brilliant.

"With us being short on numbers, to get those two guys back would be fantastic for the club."

On whether The Shaymen would sign up any of the trialists currently training with the club, Clarke said: "There's a possibility. With us being short in numbers there's been a few phone calls made, a few people coming in.

"One or two are helping with numbers, and one or two that we're really keen on, and having a really good look at them.

"If it's me (who becomes manager) then brilliant, and we can start the process quickly. I've seen them first-hand so that gives us a head start on that.

"It's about making sure we've got the right numbers to put on the correct type of training for the guys."

One player who has returned to train with the club is left-back Joe Skarz.

"I'm a really good friend of Joe's," Clarke explained. "He's been in and out of clubs looking for something during the summer.

"Again, it was a favour for each other really. Joe needs to keep fit and keep match-sharpness, and I need numbers in the building to be able to put on really good, enjoyable sessions for the lads.

"So we've worked with each other with that. I've known Joe for a long time, his attitude and dedication to football is second to none, and I think the lads were over the moon to see him come back.

"He's certainly a character and the lads all like him."

Clarke says he and Nichol are taking their roles on a day-to-day basis

He added: "The chairman has had a lot of applicants for it, and there's no surprise, it's a great job for somebody to come into.

"The previous manager has assembled a really good squad together. Obviously just a little bit short, but I think what is there is a really good core of a group and players that want to work hard.

"It's a very attractive offer for somebody to come in and manage.

"Once they've gone through all the interview stages, then I'd guess we'll know a little bit more.

"But at the moment it's a bit of a day-to-day thing, and making sure the lads are prepared.

"It's the back end of pre-season so we're making sure that work is still being done and the lads are ready to rock and roll on August 3."