FC Halifax Town: Clarke determined to keep rolling back the years after penning new contract
Town defender Nathan Clarke may be about to enter his 19th season as a senior pro, but he retains the hunger and enthusiasm of an academy graduate.
The 35-year-old signed a new one-year contract earlier this month after a hugely impressive campaign in which he played every second of Halifax’s season.
And the former Huddersfield, Bradford and Grimsby centre-back can’t wait to embark on another season.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “I spoke to the manager just after Christmas regarding his thoughts for next year, and it was always the plan just to play as well as I could and earn myself a contract.”
When asked if last season had surpassed his expectations, he said: “Personally yeah. Going into a new team you just want to be able to help as much as you can.
“I didn’t feel any sort of pressure coming into it so I could just go into the team and help push them forward as much as I could.
“Personally, managing to play the (amount of) games I did was fantastic.
“The manager was fantastic with me. If there were the odd days if he felt I needed taking out of a session, he would do.
“He understood that the most important thing is playing on a Saturday, and making sure my body was ready.
“The manager was very clever, not just with me but the other lads, in that he knew what people needed.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve got to have a bit of luck to play the games I played, and I put it down to probably a bit of determination to want to play as well.”
And there’s no question over whether Clarke still has the hunger to keep on playing.
“I do yeah. There were certain games where I wasn’t up to scratch and you want to put them right.
“Next season is the next challenge, not just for me but the whole squad that the manager’s looking to assemble.
“It’s a big challenge, it’s a really tough, demanding league, but it’s one that I’m sure we’re going to be ready for.”
Clarke has made more than 600 career appearances since making his debut as a 17-year-old for Huddersfield in 2001.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. “I love football, I love playing and I’ve been given the opportunity to do that at Halifax.
“I spoke in depth with the manager and the chairman over the summer and it’s something that as a young lad, you just want to play football.
“Coming towards the end of my career, I certainly still have that hunger and desire to go out and want to train, do the hard running, do the graft, and look forward to the games.”
Clarke is hopeful he can top last season, when he produced a consistently high level of performance in central defence alongside Town captain Matty Brown.
“I’ll certainly be wanting to do that,” said Clarke. “Personally it was a good season but as a squad we felt we could have pushed on a lot more, so that’s something that, as a squad, we’ll be looking to do.
“But personally, it’s about hopefully following on from last season and hopefully get that connection back again with Browny and the rest of the lads.”
Town keeper Sam Johnson also agreed to stay at Halifax after the conclusion to the campaign, signing a two-year deal, which Clarke said was a crucial bit of business.
“It was massive yeah,” he said. “He’s such a commanding goalkeeper, which as a back four and a team, you want.
“It was a really good signing for the club, and he was delighted. I spoke to Sam towards the end of the season, and he was wanting it tied up as soon as possible to focus on next season.”
Town are yet to announce any additions to their squad, but Clarke feels The Shaymen have a good foundation in place for the 2019-20 campaign with the players they already have on their books.
“The are lads who the manager brought in last season on two-year contracts will be looking to prove a point again next season for why they were signed,” he said.
“They’ll be wanting to put on good performances and help the team.
“Certainly the likes of Sam, Browny, who’s got another year, it’s important you keep the characters like that.
“Hopefully it’s a good base to start with. There’s the likes of Niall (Maher), Dayle (Southwell) will hopefully be back stronger from his injury.
“It is a good base. Like the fans, the players are the same in looking for those signings the manager’s going to make.
“With Jacob, myself, Browny and Niall, at the back we’re pretty steady. It’s a case of, like every team, searching for that striker that’s going to get you 20-odd goals to give you a real chance.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of teams out there looking for that too.”
Clarke wants the Town fans to look forward to next season, and hopes the club’s £199 season ticket offer will see a strong take up.
“We had a good finish to last season, finished strongly, beat a lot of teams above us,” Clarke said.
“I think the chairman’s done a fantastic thing in reducing the season tickets and I’m sure us as players will be getting in and around the town to try and promote that, to get as many fans in as possible.
“When you’re winning, it certainly drives the fans into the stadium, so it’s down to us to put on the performances and get the fans excited again.”