"He's a brilliant signing" - Millington on new signing Tom Clarke, his squad and today's pre-season friendlies

Town boss Chris Millington says Tom Clarke is a brilliant signing for the club and that his addition is a huge statement for the club.

By Tom Scargill
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 6:04 pm
Chris Millington
Chris Millington

Clarke, brother of former Halifax captain Nathan, has joined Town from League One side Fleetwood on a two-year contract, and featured in today's 3-0 friendly win at Curzon Ashton.

"He's a brilliant signing," Millington said of the former Huddersfield, Preston and Salford defender.

"I'd love to tell you that it's the result of our extensive scouting network and hard work in the transfer market, but the truth is that it was a possibility raised by Nathan Clarke, Tom's brother, in a conversation with him, that there might be some interest in Tom in coming to play for Halifax Town.

"As soon as that opportunity was raised, then we were very quick to follow it up because it's a dream move in some respects for Tom, to come and play for his hometown club, and it's also a dream move for us as a club to be able to secure the services of such a highly respected professional."

When asked what Clarke will bring to the club, Millington said: "First and foremost, it's his quality as a player, his ability to defend, his ability to play out from the back, his ability to make tackles, his ability to track in-behind and his ability to pass forward are the things we'll benefit from.

"But then there's that extra layer with a player like Tom, of his leadership, his experience and his ability to communicate and draw the vest out of the players around him, and hopefully educate some of the younger players as we go, and try to accelerate some of their learning through his leadership and experiences."

Millington says the additions of players such as Clarke are a statement of intent from the Shaymen this season.

"It's a huge statement having a player like Tom Clarke, but I'd also argue for us as a club, bringing in players like Mani Dierseruvwe, Sam Minihan and Jordan Keane, players of that quality and that calibre who've got promotions under their belt, who've got experience and who'll come in and hit the ground running, is a statement across the board," said the Town boss.

"We're not a club who just bring in good, young players, who've got potential. Of course we want those players, we want players to see us as a good option for them to come and develop, but we're also a good option for established pros to come and enjoy playing their football."

Millington says leadership meetings will be held next week and that a couple of players have been identified who deserve to be named captain and vice-captain.

"We've also got people around that who will support them in their leadership roles," he said.

The Town boss said Clarke has not been signed as a replacement for centre-back Jesse Debrah, who has been linked with a move away from The Shay.

"Absolutely not, that was never the intention," Millington said.

"We always wanted four options at centre-half and that's what we've got at the moment."

On the futures of Debrah and midfielder Kian Spence, Millington said: "They're very solid first-team players who we believe can help us push for promotion this season.

"It's my understanding that the clubs who were interested in them are not in a position to take it any further at the moment."

With four strong options at centre-back, Millington says there is flexibility in what system he deploys.

"We are flexible in terms of our formation. Clearly our go to formation at the moment is 4-3-3," he said.

"We have the ability to play a 3-5-2 and we've also looked at the possibility of a 3-4-3. We have the players to be able to switch in and out of those formations.

"But the addition of Tom is more about us having strength-in-depth. I think one of the things we identified as a reason we fell short last season was just not having quite the level of quality right across the squad that we needed towards the end of the season.

"We believe we've addressed that and the aim is to have solid options in pretty much every position across the pitch."

On Town's 3-0 win at Curzon Ashton, with a Matty Warburton penalty and two goals from Mani Dierseruvwe, Millington said: "It was a good performance all-round.

"Took a little while to settle, Curzon settled quite brightly, but once we started to settle into our rhythm out of possession, regaining the ball and being better with it in possession, I thought we really controlled the game and never really relinquished control from that point on."

The Town boss then hot-footed it to Colne to see another Town side lose 2-1, with striker Rob Harker scoring Halifax's goal.

"It was a slightly different type of challenge, we worked hard out of possession and the lads put a shift in," said the Town boss.

"In possession, we tried to be a possession-based team but it was slightly difficult because the pitch held the ball up quite a lot, so it was difficult to get any tempo to our play.

"But credit to the boys for trying to maintain the Halifax Town identity."

Millington is happy most of his first-team squad were able to play for 90 minutes across both games.

"That was the objective," he said, "and certainly the lads at Colne will have had a harder 90 minutes because the pitch was that bit heavier and it will have been that bit more hard work for them.

"The fitness levels look really good, and the really pleasing thing is we've not incurred any injuries throughout pre-season.

"You find with pre-season schedules that teams seem to pick up soft tissue injuries that are a result of mis-management throughout pre-season, so it's credit to Aaron (Scholes, physio) and the team, the way they've built the lads up and we're at a stage where everybody who started pre-season is available for the first game of the season."

On forward Harker, who has joined from Burnley on a one-year deal with an option, Millington said: "Rob's a fantastic player. He's more used to playing in a two up-front but you can see by his physicality, his presence and his ability to move that he's more than capable of playing as a middle striker in a front three.

"He highlighted that today in the way he helped us build, helped us get up the pitch.

"We saw his goal threat as well which is the icing on the cake, he's a real threat in-front of goal.

"We've known about him for two or three years, and been aware of him for maybe longer.

"The silver lining to the cloud that's been over his last 12 months is the fact that we've had the opportunity to sign him, had he had a full season behind him last season, I think he would have had suitors at League One and possibly Championship level.

"For him to turn down an opportunity to stay at Burnley for the option to come and play first-team football is credit to the staff and the club."

When asked whether either Dierseruvwe or Harker will start the season as first-choice striker, Millington said: "It's up to them, they're equals.

"Mani brings a level of experience and a level of calm to the team that only an experienced striker can.

"Rob probably has a bit more of that youthful exuberance, so they both bring different things to the table.

"One thing they've got in common is that I see them both scoring goals."

On whether there would be any further additions to his squad, Millington said: "Possibly one more, there's one we're in negotiations with and have been for a good few days.

"If we can get him in then we will, but if we don't then we've not got our eyes on anyone else.

"It's just that the player we're tracking at the moment would be such a strong addition that we can't miss out on the opportunity to sign him if it's there."

Millington said Town were "monitoring the situation" over adding any cover at left-back.

"At the moment we've not progressed any negotiations in that area," he said.

"We've got two right-backs who are more than capable of doing a job on the left, I know Tylor's very, very capable in that area.

"So we're not too worried if for any reason Jack wasn't available of had a significant drop in form, we've got adequate replacements already within the group."

Millington says he believes winger Jamie Allen is due back in the country next week after his appearance on Love Island, and says discussions are set to take place with him then regarding his future.